On March 15, 1996, Pope.L strolled along 125th Street in Harlem—the bustling mecca of black America—wearing business attire, a backpack containing a stuffed white bunny, and, most conspicuously, an adjustable cardboard tube protruding from his crotch. Propped up by the base of a rolling office chair, the tube allowed Pope.L’s “member” to extend up to fourteen feet. Occasionally, the artist would pause to drop a raw egg down the tube, causing it to splatter on the sidewalk. Adding to the spectacle, Pope.L intermittently covered his head with a latex glove that expanded and contracted as he breathed.
Intended as “commentary on the supremacy of the white phallus,” and playing with stereotypes of black masculinity, the performance stirred up controversy before it could even be carried out: when news reached Capitol Hill that Pope.L might use National Endowment for the Arts funds toward the performance, the acting chairman of the NEA deemed the work “indecent” and rescinded his grant.
Gallery label from October 21, 2019–February 1, 2020