Carl Pope Jr.’s Poetics of Blackness: The Bad Air Smelled of Roses

Carl Pope, Jr, selections from The Bad Air Smelled of Roses, (2004–), letter-press posters, various dimensions. Cleveland Museum of Art; Mr. and Mrs. Richard W. Whitehill Art Purchase Endowment Fund and gift of David Lusenhop in honor of the artist 2018.33.
A Lie is Only a Lie and People Will Believe Anything designed and printed for Carl Pope by Hatch Show Print.

Carl Pope Jr. describes The Bad Air Smelled of Roses as a continuous writing exercise, a graphic essay, mapping the “ubiquitous presence and function of Blackness in society and Nature.”1 Begun in 2004, the work presently consists of 108 letterpress posters, each printed with a text selected by the artist in reply to the question, “What do I think of when I think of Blackness?”2 The answers spring from many sources, some predictable (Black literature, jazz and rap, Malcolm X), others less so (Descartes, Freud, Casablanca, a 1970s TV commercial for bubble bath).

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  1. Carl Pope, “Unpacking and Repacking Blackness and ‘The Bad Air Smelled of Roses,’” in The Appearance of Black Lives Matter by Nicholas Mirzoeff (Miami: [NAME] Publications, 2018), 215. An earlier version of this essay appears in Drama Queer: Exhibition Catalogue (Vancouver: Pride in Art Society, 2017). []
  2. Jose Roca and Carl Pope, “Interview: Carl Pope,” Philagraphika (blog), 8 Jun 2009, []