May 28th 2023

Join us for our final Mellon Archives Innovation Program with poet and visual artist Arnold J. Kemp as he reads N.H. Pritchard’s experimental collection of 71 “sound poems” in the Johnson Publishing Library. Instrumental to shaping the avant-garde edges of the Black Arts Movement, Pritchard constructed stunning visual and sonic poems that were undoubtedly ahead of their time.

About the Johnson Publishing Library

The Johnson Publishing Library is a collection of books and periodicals donated by the Johnson Publishing Company (JPC), publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. The collection includes publications from the 1940’s to the present day, and also includes the company’s in-house library once used by JPC editors and writers.

About Arnold J. Kemp

Arnold J. Kemp is an artist, curator, writer and educator, whose similarly versatile practice explores the many vectors along which identity is formed and can likewise slip out of place. Some of the artist’s work features several Arnold Kemps, including the blogger who created the Dungeons & Dragons monster for which his recent show with JOAN, Los Angeles is named: FALSE HYDRAS. A false hydra eradicates the memory of whomever it consumes, then grows a new head that resembles its recent prey. Kemp also features in his work his Bahamian grandfather, Arnold J. Kemp, and the American novelist Arnold Kemp, who wrote the novel Eat of Me, I am the Savior in 1972. By integrating surrogates into his project, the artist creates an Arnold J. Kemp that is diffuse, mutable, and plural—embracing and embodying Otherness. Among Kemp’s most developed series are his works on paper employing prints and collages of aluminum foil masks. Cutting three physiognomic holes out of this impoverished material, which reflects a humorously warped and unreliable image, Kemp creates haunting, evocative images that telegraph aggression, shame, love, fear … but ultimately and lovingly maintain the same slippery ambiguity Kemp has applied to his own identity.


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