Philly Museum of Art MLK Weekend

"American Girl," 1974, by Emma Amos. From the portfolio Impressions: Our World, Volume 1, 1973-1974.

MLK Weekend and the Philly Museum of Art

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Is the MLK Weekend a time of service, a time of reflection or a four-day long time to relax and spend doing something audacious?

In my humble opinion, MLK weekend the period of January 14 through 17 might best be spent, proactively, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in observation of all three of those possibilities, and in anticipation of February’s Black History Month. Along with potent exhibitions of art on its walls, and staged dance experiences in its halls, there are, additionally, opportunities to tune in from home for special virtual programs for kids.

Atlanta-born Emma Amos was a queen of experimental print-making. The only woman member of Spiral (the historic African American collective founded in 1963) and an inventive figurative artist whose vividly colorful paintings of women floating or flying through space were notably ripe with feminist and racial politicism is represented at the PMoA with the Emma Amos: Color Odyssey exhibition, and “challenges and rejections of the dominant visual codes of American life,” so speaks its legend. See this by or before January 17.

Laurel Garber, the curator of Emma Amos: Color Odyssey and The Park Family Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings at PMoA told me: “Rarely does an exhibition feel at once so overdue and so timely as Emma Amos: Color Odyssey.

Philly Museum of Art MLK Weekend
“Sand Tan,” 1980, by Emma Amos. Etching and aquatint, 40 × 36 inches.

Amos made work from the late 1950s to the 2010s, often without mainstream recognition; the exhibition, organized by the Georgia Museum of Art in Amos’s home state, shows without a doubt that Amos has been speaking to us all along. Color Odyssey presents the full sweep of Amos’ career, revealing its urgent contemporary significance.

Her work, sometimes wittily, sometimes caustically, exposes art historical prejudices. Whether she’s populating her bather scenes with languidly posed Black female figures, or picturing herself “wearing” the nude body of painter Lucian Freud, Amos prompts critical reflections on art, race, and gender.”

One of this city’s long-running and most epic dance companies, Philadanco!, runs what they’re calling a MinEvent, January 14 – 16, which features excerpts from dances choreographed by Merce Cunningham and costumes designed after Op-to-Pop icon Jasper Johns.

Kim Bears-Bailey, Artistic Director of Philadanco, said that “It has been very exciting to see this process unfold with Patricia Lent [of the Merce Cunningham Trust] leading the charge. You immediately felt her passion and commitment to the Cunningham works. Truly brought excitement to the dancers. Once the costumes were introduced and I saw them on the dancers I immediately felt like Jasper Johns was in the building.”

dM and I got the scoop that the costumes for MinEvent have been adapted and realized for Philadanco by Reid Bartelme (a member of the University of the Arts dance faculty) and Harriet Jung after an original design by Jasper Johns for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s Landrover (1972). This work is being supported by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, an organization Johns co-founded long ago with Cunningham, John Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg to help benefit performing artists.

Philly Museum of Art MLK Weekend

Janine Beckles, Senior Company member at Philadanco told dM, “I am really enjoying the work, the process. Learning the movement without music really forces the dancer to think deeper about their individual internal rhythm and pulse. But of course, we will be performing at the museum with live music by John King and Leyya Mona Tawil. I look forward to all those elements coming together.”

Then there is the “Say It Loud” at home program for Monday, January 17 where young and old can delve deep into ideas of social justice through works from the PMoA’s collection, “ask big questions, and sketch dreams for the future.”

You can check HERE for times and sign-ups.

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