Ryan Lee will now represent Emma Amos, the painter known for being the only woman in the short-lived collective Spiral. The Chelsea gallery will have its first solo show of Amos’s work—and the 77-year-old artist’s first New York solo show in six years—in February.
During the 1960s, Amos began showing her semi-figurative paintings with the other members of Spiral, a collective made up of 14 African American artists. At stake for Spiral was the question of what black American art was supposed to look like, but each artist in the collective had a different take on the matter, and after just one show, in 1965, Spiral dissolved. (In a 1966 article in these pages, Amos said of Spiral, “I don’t believe there is such a things as a Negro artists. Why don’t we let white folks in?”) After Spiral, Amos continued to make her spare, quasi-abstract paintings of women who are literally of many colors. In the ’80s, Amos began to use fabrics from Africa as a way of specifically engaging with modernist myths about exoticism and women.
The news that Ryan Lee will represent Amos anticipates a big year for the artist. In this year already, Amos has been named the winner of the Georgia Museum of Art’s Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Award, and in April, her work will be included in “The Color Line,” an extensive survey of African American art at the Musée du Quai Branly, in Paris. In the near future, Amos will also have a retrospective at the Georgia Museum of Art.