TWO EARLY PAINTINGS by Emma Amos are featured in “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” (April 21–Sept. 17, 2017), the groundbreaking group exhibition organized by the Brooklyn Museum. “Sandy and Her Husband” and “Flower Sniffer,” a 1966 self-portrait by Amos, are displayed side-by-side in the show.

After the Brooklyn Museum recently announced its acquisition of “Flower Sniffer,” news comes that the Cleveland Museum of Art is adding “Sandy and Her Husband” to its collection. The Cleveland Museum of Art announced several new acquisitions on June 17, including Amos’s “Sandy and Her Husband” (1973), which was purchased directly from the artist’s collection.

“Sandy and Her Husband” is a significant painting made during a period when Amos’s figurative images focused on color and composition. Dancing cheek-to-cheek with their eyes closed, Amos depicts a couple lost in the moment. It’s a romantic scene, but the couple is not quite alone. Amos has cleverly inserted herself into the private, domestic moment by reproducing her self-portrait. A painting within a painting, “Flower Sniffer” hangs on the wall behind the couple.

Emma Amos has cleverly inserted herself into the private, domestic moment by reproducing her self-portrait. A painting within a painting, “Flower Sniffer” hangs on the wall behind the couple.

OVER THE PAST 60 YEARS, Amos has consistently pushed herself in new directions, working in a variety of formats including paintings, prints, and textile-based works. Her work “explores African American identity and culture, particularly celebrating women’s presence within that heritage.”

Born in Atlanta, Amos received an undergraduate degree from Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio; earned a diploma from the London Central School of Art; and after moving to New York, got a masters degree in art education at New York University in 1966. She taught briefly at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, before becoming a professor at the Mason Gross School of Art at Rutgers University. She remained at Rutgers for nearly 30 years, retiring in 2008.

Amos participated in Spiral, the artist collective co-founded by Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Charles Alston, and Hale Woodruff, who invited her to join. Active from 1963-65, Spiral came together in the wake of the March on Washington for the purpose of discussing the role, if any, of artists in advancing civil liberties and establishing a creative forum in which to discuss their work. Members of the aesthetically divergent group spanned two generations.

“We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” is described as “the first exhibition to highlight the voices and experiences of women of color—distinct from the primarily white, middle-class mainstream feminist movement—in order to reorient conversations around race, feminism, political action, art production, and art history in this significant historical period.” The exhibition introduces the work of Amos in the context of Spiral. She was the youngest and only female member of the collective, which hosted its sole show in 1965.

A traveling exhibition, “We Wanted a Revolution” opens next week at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, where it is on view June 27-Sept. 30, 2018.

Later this year, after the exhibition concludes, “Sandy and Her Husband” will be exhibited in the contemporary galleries at the Cleveland Museum of Art. CT


TOP IMAGE: EMMA AMOS (American, 1938-), “Sandy and Her Husband,” 1973 (oil on canvas, 44.25 x 50.25 inches). | The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund


READ MORE about Emma Amos on her website.


“Emma Amos: Paintings and prints 1982-92” documents the artist’s 1993 solo exhibition at the College of Wooster Art Museum in Wooster, Ohio. Two publications were produced to coincide with “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85,” a Sourcebook featuring an invaluable collection of historic articles about black women artist’s activities, insights, challenges, and triumphs navigating the art world, along with New Perspectives, a collection of original essays.


Two important paintings by Emma Amos on view in “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” at the Brooklyn Museum in 2017. Shown, from left, “Flower Sniffer” (1966), a self portrait, and “Sandy and Her Husband” (1973), which features “Flower Sniffer” in the background, is now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. | via Brooklyn Museum


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