Amos retrospective, Black art series on display in Utica

Amos retrospective, Black
art series on display in Utica

UTICA — In honor of Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration, Utica’s Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute opened two exhibits dealing with the Black experience, “Emma Amos: Color Odyssey,” and “Call & Response: Collecting African American Art, according to a media release.

“Emma Amos: Color Odyssey,” which will be on view through Sunday, Sept. 12, is a major retrospective of the artist’s distinguished six-decade career. The exhibition features more than 60 artworks Amos created from 1958 to 2015.

“Call & Response: Collecting African American Art” which will be on display through Sunday, Nov. 28, showcases the MWP’s 30-plus years of collecting and displaying Black art.

Historically, works by Black artists have been marginalized, neglected, or ignored, said Mary Murray, curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “Call & Response” will reveal the extraordinary depth and richness the works have brought to the collection through early and sustained efforts to diversify its holdings, she said.

Murray stressed that since the Museum of Art primarily focuses on artists from the United States, it is important to bring as many perspectives as possible to bear on the works that are preserved in the collection.

“Art museums are established to be repositories of cultural heritage, to collect and exhibit objects that are considered aesthetically and historically significant,” Murray said in a media release.

“There should be a diverse range of stories being shared.”

Artists in the exhibition include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Norman Lewis, Alison Saar, Betye Saar, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems and many others.

Though Amos is best known for her large-scale paintings incorporating African fabrics, she also embraced multiple types of materials, innovative printmaking techniques and photo-transfer, weaving and collage.

Her compositions reveal personal narratives about art, historical figures and the representation of people of color, particularly women.

According to the media release, “Amos combined her interests in painting, printmaking, weaving and collage into vibrant stories that present a layered understanding of what it meant to
be a woman and artist of color during the era of Civil Rights and the feminist movements of the past 50 years.”

Like many women, especially for women of her generation, Amos kept a demanding schedule as a wife, mother, artist and art professor, while being a powerful voice for social change.

Later in her life, Amos revealed she was a member of the “Guerrilla Girls,” a group of anonymous women artists advocating for parity in the art world through activism and protest.

In a 2011 interview, Amos reflected, “It was tough. But I did it, you know. I just felt like it was necessary.”

“Emma Amos: Color Odyssey” is organized by Shawnya L. Harris, Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson, Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art, the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia.

“Amos is one of several Black women artists whose contribution to art history deserves attention and critique,” Harris said in the media release. “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 Georgia Museum of Art has published a scholarly exhibition catalog 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.

The MWPAI is located at 310 Genesee St. in Utica. Call 315-797-000 or go to for more information.

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