Pope.L Thunderbird Immolation a.k.a. Meditation Square Piece 1978

Thunderbird Immolation marks the beginning of a series of solo street interventions that Pope.L calls his “gutter pieces.” In the photographs documenting this performance, the artist is seen meditating in a half-lotus pose on the sidewalk outside a prestigious commercial gallery building in New York’s SoHo neighborhood while sitting atop a yellow meditation square. Wearing a black suit, white dress shirt, and bow tie, he pulls out of a brown paper bag two bottles of Thunderbird wine, a bottle of Wild Irish Rose, a can of Coca-Cola, a plastic measuring cup, and wooden matches that he arranges in a ring around himself, occasionally spelling out words with them. He then periodically pours the wine (a cheap fortified alcohol marketed to inner-city neighborhoods) over his body.

By dousing himself in flammable liquid, surrounded by matches, Pope.L references the legacy of fire rituals and meditative practices associated with various eastern religions and acts of resistance. Using the yellow cloth as a framing device, the artist’s silent action concerns interrelations between protest, self-empowerment, and poverty.

Gallery label from October 21, 2019–February 1, 2020
Five inkjet prints
2 Prints: 6 × 9" (15.2 × 22.9 cm) 3 Prints: 10 × 15" (25.4 × 38.1 cm)
Acquired in part through the generosity of Jill and Peter Kraus, Anne and Joel S. Ehrenkranz, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, The Jill and Peter Kraus Media and Performance Acquisition Fund, and Jill and Peter Kraus in honor of Michael Lynne
Object number
© 2019 Pope.L. Courtesy of the artist.
Media and Performance
Research in progress; information about this work may be incomplete.

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