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Fellow artist, colleague, and friend of artist Pope L, Theaster Gates noted, “He gave us the constant question of ‘Are you being sincere in the work that you make?’


It’s the kind of questioning that Pope L embodied in his work which tracks directly to his self-description as the “fisherman…” His work was provocative and made people uncomfortable. He mined what lay beneath the surface to see the absurdity of society and made it into art.


Examples of his provocative work cited in the Chicago Sun-Times obituary include his well-known performance The Great White Way. Pope L crawled the length of Broadway in New York in a Superman costume with a skateboard strapped to his back. Arriving at a 2017 exhibition in Switzerland, he emerged from a white-stretch limousine in a white Gorilla suit carrying a white umbrella.

A man dressed head to toe in a white gorilla suit with a white umbrella steps out of a white limousine
POPE.L, The Problem, 2016 Performance at Art Basel, Switzerland

His performance art was as provoking as his mentorship was sincere. He made space for others and he used his mind, creativity, and his body to forward the stories he needed to tell. He took risks and laid foundations for other artists like Gates, to explore and challenge the bounds of their creativity.


(William) Pope L transitioned to ancestor on December 23, 2023, at age 68, in his Hyde Park, Chicago home. Rest well, dear Pope.



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