“It smells like bologna in here,” Sam said. He meant bologna sausage, aka ‘baloney’. We were at the Whitney Biennial, and he’d been further into the room than I had. Here’s what we found when we went to investigate —
This is a grid of 2,755 slices of bologna, each tacked onto the appropriately pink background with a black and white photocopy portrait attached —
Playing with words and numbers, the artist’s ‘claim’ is that the number is related to New York’s percentage of Jewish population, though the photographs were chosen randomly. See that drip in the photo above? We were there a couple of weeks after the exhibition opened, and the passage of time was wreaking a little havoc with the materials in this piece.
The curator’s note tells us that Pope.L has made other versions of this work, many focusing on Black subjects, and goes on to say that “Claim (Whitney Version) plays with our tendency to project ourselves onto numbers and stokes our awareness that such counting often lays the groundwork for systematic acts of discrimination.”
Conceptual art can challenge the viewer in ways that strictly visual art does not. Still, it’s rewarding to see it through, even though it’s dependent on our patience in being willing to read about it.
Claim won the the Bucksbaum Award, which recognizes one artist from each Biennial exhibition. The Whitney will host a show of Pope.L’s work this fall.
What do you think of this exhibition?
More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual