The enigmatic “Pope” at the center of this oil-wash drawing flashes viewers a gesture that is both a papal blessing and a peace sign. Wearing a sandwich board that exclaims “NOW” but doesn’t list any specific demands, the heavily draped man moves through an undefined space, in front of a hanging banner that shows the lower half of a skeleton, but is trapped beneath ruled lines that recall a camera’s viewfinder. The word “CHICAGO,” at the top, suggests a link with the artist’s hometown, but little else about the meaning of this work can be definitively stated. The ambiguity at the center of Black Pope (Sandwich Board Man) is the key to its power.
Gallery label from from Charles White: A Retrospective, 2018