Aug 14, 2018

The Bad Air Smelled of Roses: Black is Beauty, Pride, Power. Black is Me!

The Bad Air Smelled of Roses: Black is Beauty, Pride, Power. Black is Me!


Part of a set. See all set records

Carl Pope Jr. Hatch Show Print, Nashville, TN

(American, b. 1961)

Letterpress poster

55.9 x 35.6 cm (22 x 14 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. Richard W. Whitehill Art Purchase Endowment Fund and gift of David Lusenhop in honor of the artist 2018.33.23



This is one of more than108 letterpress posters—all in the collection of the CMA—that comprise Carl Pope's ongoing essay about the presence and function of Blackness in society, titled The Bad Air Smelled of Roses. The work present texts from a range of sources, including modern Black literature, René Descartes, jazz and rap music, Sigmund Freud, Malcolm X, Dolly Parton, movie dialogue from Casablanca and The Matrix, and a TV commercial for bubble bath. For Pope, Blackness is not limited to African American identity, but encompasses all that is unseen, unknown, oppressed, forgotten, or rejected. The posters therefore present varied and often conflicting voices that the artist hopes will challenge viewers to look beyond mainstream preconceptions and experience Blackness as a natural, expansive realm of alternative possibilities. The letterpress medium links this work with ephemeral printed materials typically used to create advertisements, flyers, and picket signs. Stapled to the wall like notices on the street, the posters confront the exclusivity of the fine art gallery as they vacillate between art and public discourse.

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