How to understand Black art across the diaspora



1963 - 1965

I hope that the subjects of my paintings dislodge, question, and tweak prejudices, rules, and notions relating to art and who makes it, poses for it, shows it, and buys it.

-Emma Amos

Spiral was a collective of African-American visual artists in Harlem, New York. What initially began as regular meetings about logistical issues surrounding travel to protests transformed into aesthetic engagement and solidarity with the liberation movement in the arts. Wtih members creating with different mediums and ranging from ages 28 to 65, Spiral was a collective that blurred the lines between peers and mentors, with the members learning from one another. Spiral was one of the first groups that highlighted how the cultural community needed to be directly involved in social change. The members of Spiral had differing ideas concerning how artists should be engaged in the civil rights movement. Norman Lewis contributed through abstraction, Hale Woodruff through figurative works, and Romare Beardern through collage. Emma Amos, the sole female member of the group, was known for her vivid use of color and inventive approach to form. Despite only have one collective exhibition in 1965, Spiral was foundational to the approach of artist collectives and representational of the various styles of Black artists. Woodruff suggested “Spiral” to represent the idea of a group that "moves outward embracing all directions, yet continually upward”.