AMOS’S THE RAFT, 1986. ACRYLIC ON WOVEN LINEN, 56 X 36″.
By the 1980s, Atlanta-born artist Emma Amos had lived in New York for two decades and had been the youngest and only female artist in Spiral, a Civil Rights era collective of African-American artists. It’s then that Amos conceived her leitmotif “figure in flux”-men and women rendered in wispy brushstrokes and often framed with swatches of patterned fabric, their fragile appearance serving as a metaphor for their trace in a whitewashed history. She chose subjects who held a tenuous stake in cultural memory: her Athletes series (1983-85) draws parallels between black athletes and animals for both their agility and exploitation; and The Falling Series (1989) portrays black entertainers and other figures tumbling through fragmented backgrounds. This month, New York’s Ryan Lee gallery will display about a dozen works, revisiting Amos’s innovative depiction of the black body at a timely moment. “I hope people will be able to see the works for what they are,” says Amos, “and what they can reflect of the times in which they were made, and how they resonate in the present.”