Chicago-based artist William Pope.L’s work encompasses installation and performance, directly speaking to and challenging ideas about race and social stigmas. His installation at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center challenges contemporary views of education.
Across the windows of Logan Center Tower is an outline of a cliff in thick black vinyl print with rigid vertical markings. “Cliff” (2012), a site-specific work by Pope.L, is a part of the exhibition, “Wall Text.”
The two-dimensional cliff is contradictory to its environs. The thick black ink that renders the peaks and cliff dimensions is in contrast to the urban landscape in which it exists. Across the valleys, on an adjoining wall, are letters that spell out “On Strike for Better Schools.” Placed in an elite university, the slogan takes on a complexity of meaning. Pope.L’s work consistently contradicts social roles. The peaks and valleys in “Cliff” are more than rigid lines on a window: they represent moments in life. We find ourselves in peaks and valleys, often climbing out of the valley to make it to the peak. Each of these high and low periods will get better.
Also on view is an extension of the work, “Better” (2013), a bumper sticker that, unlike “Cliff,” will travel through the social surroundings. This site-specific piece, which viewers are encouraged to take away, acquires a new identity when placed on a car or book, creating a protest that the next question is always coming.
These public pieces probe issues surrounding race, language and community. The bumper sticker, which reads “On Strike For Better Schools,” is intended to be attached to a vehicle, where the public will be able to view it. The lifetime of a bumper sticker is roughly five years, the same amount of time it takes the average American to graduate with their undergraduate degree. After those five years, the visibility of the sticker will begin to fade, similar to college memories.
Pope.L’s “Cliff” and “Better” indirectly ask us to interrogate the education system, while targeting an audience armed with the privilege of a college education or private transportation. By engaging real-world issues of the education system, this work offers a glimpse into another education path. (Caira Moreira-Brown)
“Cliff” (2012) and “Better” (2013) are on display indefinitely on the windows on levels 7, 8 and 9, beginning in the southwest stairwell of Level 9, Logan Center Tower at The University of Chicago, 915 East 60th Street.