Major Exhibition Highlights How Emma Amos Embodied Intersectionality in Her Art

  • ATHENS, Georgia
  • /
  • January 12, 2021

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Emma Amos (American, 1937 – 2020), “Sandy and Her Husband,” 1973. Oil on canvas, 44 1⁄4 × 50 1/4 inches. Cleveland Museum of Art; John L. Severance Fund, 2018.24.

“Emma Amos: Color Odyssey” will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art January 30 through April 25, 2021, before traveling to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute from June 19 to September 12, 2021, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 9, 2021, to January 2, 2022.

Emma Amos’s journey to become a distinguished artist is nothing short of extraordinary. She was interested in art from a young age, even though segregation prevented her from being able fully to enjoy and experience the arts in museums and other public “separate-but-equal” spaces. “Emma Amos: Color Odyssey,” a retrospective solo exhibition organized by the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia, not only shows her presence and growth as an artist, but also highlights the social change for which Amos fought.

Cover of exhibition catalogue, "Emma Amos: Color Odyssey"

“Emma Amos: Color Odyssey” will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art January 30 through April 25, 2021, before traveling to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute from June 19 to September 12, 2021, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 9, 2021, to January 2, 2022. The exhibition includes over 60 works Amos made over the course of her career, with the earliest from the late 1950s and the latest around 2015. It includes examples of painting, printmaking and textile-based mixed-media works, which she moved among and recombined regularly.

Amos was the only woman in Spiral, a group of Black artists who came together to examine their relationship with art and activism. They often disagreed on key topics, usually regarding if and how they should address social issues as a group and within their art. Some members, including Amos, did not like separating “Black” art from all other art, but others saw no purpose in continuing Spiral if not to perpetuate the growth of the Black art scene. To Amos, being Black was a political statement, but she wanted to address various issues regarding race, gender, class, and power within the art world and in society as a whole, not just the adversities of Black people. After her death, it was even revealed that she was also a member of the Guerilla Girls, a feminist art collective whose members wear masks to keep their identities anonymous. Amos actively fought against misogyny in the art world and evolved as a feminist artist sensitive to the nuances of race, age and class-oriented politics of her time through her teaching and writing but most of all her art.

Amos knew that like many other artists of color, she would not receive immediate recognition by the art community. During the 2010s, she received a surge of attention due to participation in major traveling exhibitions. In 2016, the Georgia Museum of Art honored her with its Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Award. Shawnya L. Harris, Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art, had gotten to know Amos and had already began to work on her as the subject of an expansive exhibition. 

Harris says, “Amos is one of several Black women artists whose contribution to art history deserves attention and critique. Putting together several decades worth of her work provides a special opportunity to learn more about her career, techniques and ideas, inviting re-evaluation and new audiences in relation to her artistic progression.” Amos died in May 2020, but her legacy lives on in the art she created and the contributions she made to a better society. 

The museum is publishing a scholarly exhibition catalogue to accompany the show, with essays by Harris; Lisa Farrington of Howard University; artist LaToya Ruby Frazier; Laurel Garber, Park Family Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; artist Kay Walkingstick; and Phoebe Wolfskill, associate professor in the departments of American studies and African American and African Diaspora studies at Indiana University.


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