Emma Amos. True Colors

25 Feb 2016 – 9 Apr 2016

Ryan Lee

New York
New York, United States


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Ryan Lee is pleased to announce Emma Amos:True Colors, Paintings of the 1980s, a solo exhibition featuring works made by the important post-modernist artist during a critical period in her oeuvre.


This is the first time that work from this decade has been exhibited in New York in more than 10 years.

On view is a selection of paintings in which Amos questions and reframes the figure and images of blackness through themes of movement, fragmentation, and tension. Intending to insert people of color and ideas of blackness into the canon from which it had long been withheld, Amos uses formal techniques that pull from movements notably associated with her white, male counterparts, such as Action Painting, Abstract Expressionism, and Color Field Painting. It is during this period that Emma introduces the figure in flux for the first time. She also continues her exploration of space and color evident in her 1960s and 1970s work, notions that are deeply tied to social, political, gender, and racial implications. It is as much about color theory, texture, perspective, and composition as it is about colorism and sexism, or where and how the black body was historically accepted or allowed to exist in art history

Amos considers the black athlete and wild animals in her “Athletes and Animals” (1983-1985) series. Paralleling images of sports players with lions, cheetahs, and crocodiles, she suggests the fleeting and illusory power, both in physicality and influence, of th e black athlete. “I want to make clear the relationships between artists, athletes, entertainers, and thinkers, and the prowess, ferocity, steadfastness, and dynamism of animals,” Amos told Lucy Lippard in 1989. Her transformative investigation into the depictions of the black body further extends to her representation of Josephine Baker, an important subject for the artist. Baker, who was politically vocal and arguably the most visible black entertainer of her time, stood as a new way to reconstruct blackness. Serving as an extension to these works, “The Falling Series” (1988) relates specifically to Amos’ own anxieties surrounding the erasure of history, place, and people. Amos also considered the economic crisis of the Reagan era and the abyss. She depicted dancers, singers, and other figures s lipping, tumbling, and hurrling through abstracted spaces among iconic and classic architecture, mythological motifs, and symbols of jazz and blues music.

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Exhibiting artists

Emma Amos


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