Picture any crisis you can imagine–a war-torn city, an impoverished village of rusty shanties, people displaced by disaster–and if your brain is anything like mine, those images come through in muddled browns and washed-out highlights. Maybe it’s the influence of photography or film, maybe it’s just that the worst living environments tend to involve a lot of dirt and not much paint–maybe it’s based on a level of truth or influenced by pop culture. I don’t know.
But I do know that, before exploring work by Amze Emmons, I hadn’t even realized that my mental color palette bias existed. Emmons’ recent art–a combination of graphite, acrylic, gouache, and watercolor–depicts disaster and refugee zones with utter vibrance. Bold pastels add sparks of color where you least expect them. Shanties become patchwork quilts, and concrete barricades melt into giant Popsicles of every flavor.
Emmons creates a postapocalyptic Candy Land, a hyperreality in which there is no beauty without some inherent cynicism, or maybe there is no tragedy without some lingering untouched blossom of humanity.
In Emmons’ world, rollout cots have a higher color billing than ornate chandeliers, and palm trees are ghosts compared to water canisters. The brilliant becomes mundane and the mundane becomes brilliant. Because in a crisis, maybe everything really is brown muck, except for all of those multicolored mundanities keeping us alive.