ASL Vlog: Carl Pope

Educator Lauren Ridloff discusses a work by Carl Pope in the exhibition An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017.

Behind me you see rows of trophies, awards and plaques. These items are given as recognition of achievements. Usually for sports, athletics and success in one’s field. The title of this piece, and it’s a long one is Some of the Greatest Hits of the New York City Police Department: A Celebration of Meritorious Achievement in Community Service. That title was created by artist Carl Pope. He wanted to urge the viewer to take a closer look at the trophies.These are the ubiquitous trophies we normally see. Shiny and with figures on top. But if you look closer, you will see the figures are police officers. Some holding guns. You will also notice the year and the name of the real officers who were recognized. While you look at this display, there are a few things you may notice. We notice how the trophy design has changed over time. We also notice the history of police brutality. What started this project for Pope, was the killing of a Black man. His name was Leonard Barnett. It happened in 1977. Pope started to investigate. He found out that these trophies were being made and revealed how the community was unaware that these awards were being given to officers who committed police brutality. For example, when Eric Garner was choked to death by a police officer. What happened? That police officer got a pay raise. Pope wants us to see these as a visual reminder.and a visual metaphor for our history with police brutality.