March is Women’s History Month. Each March, the Museum of Women in the Arts challenges art lovers to name #5womenartists. The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia in Athens offers a wonderful opportunity to expand the range of your #5womenartists with an exhibition focusing on Emma Amos (b. Atlanta, 1937-2020). Amos, like countless other female artists, particularly Black female artists, received only a fraction of the notoriety her work would indicate she was due.
“Emma Amos: Color Odyssey,” a retrospective solo exhibition organized by the Georgia Museum of Art shows both her presence and growth as an artist, while also highlighting the social change for which Amos fought.
“Emma Amos: Color Odyssey” will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art through April 25, 2021, before traveling to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York from June 19 to September 12, 2021, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 11, 2021, to January 2, 2022.
“Emma Amos: Color Odyssey”
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.
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.
Recognition comes late for Emma Amos
During the 2010s, she received a surge of attention due to participation in major traveling exhibitions including “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.”
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.
“Amos is one of several Black women artists whose contribution to art history deserves attention and critique,” Harris said. “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.”
Her work is held in prestigious public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Brooklyn Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
Amos died in May 2020.