not but nothing other: African-American Portrayals, 1930s to Today

Emma Amos (born 1937)
Mississippi Wagon, 1937, 1992

A painterly rendition of the Confederate flag surrounds a photograph of three men on a wagon standing before a simple farmhouse. The horse-drawn cart attests to the underdeveloped state of agriculture in a South still dominated during the Great Depression by the sharecropping system, while the flag that frames this image suggests the oppressive society that fostered such inequality. Emma Amos was born the same year this photograph was taken—not in Mississippi, but Atlanta. Nevertheless, growing up in the segregated South of the 1940s and ‘50s exposed her to the enduring consequences of slavery—economic, social and psychic.

A celebrated printmaker, Amos here combines two techniques: the monotype, a very basic procedure whereby a drawing in oil paint is pressed onto a sheet of paper, rendering a unique impression; and screenprinting, which allows for a photographic transfer to be reproduced efficiently. In Mississippi Wagon, 1937, Amos mobilizes and conjoins both methods for her expressive ends.

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