Pope.L returns to Los Angeles, after his MOCA exhibition William Pope.L: Trinket this past summer, with a two-part, two-gallery, map-sprawling, time-spanning show—Desert at Steve Turner in Hollywood and Forest at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects in Culver City—connected by a downloadable GPS driving tour. Samuel Beckett, whose influence appeared in Trinket, returns again in the GPS guide’s insistently jolted repetitive language, “this thing this thing this thing you are are are listening to is your conscience.”
History, trapped, bubbles up in each site and in the space and time between them. Do you know how forests became deserts? The driving tour answers, but only after a voice warns that while there aren’t any tricks in the physical artwork, the audio portion of this exhibition might have some. Continuing on S. Cochran Ave, the guide finally divulges, “Forest is just oil in another lifetime … a forest will become a desert and.” The audio stops mid-clause.
Pope.L twists gaps and opens up fissures. Sentences stop mid-meaning. Logographic texts, such as “& – ,, +,” line the walls of Desert at Steve Turner as isolated interpolators of written language. Words are pushed in and out of near-identity—destiny becomes “dustiny” becomes destiny—simultaneously signaling a boundary and a connection. There is total removal: an erasure haunted by another erasure, a package never opened. Desert is populated by Pope.L’s pristine sculptures of eraser heads, pink and propped up on stands or tilted on the floor, punctured with holes. Nigger Eraser (1998–2002), a deodorant container, modified with marker, chocolate, and cellophane tape, is the oldest piece of Pope.L’s work shown in Desert.