Root Cause Analysis: Amze Emmons, CFEVA Fellow ’16-18

Root Cause Analysis

Amze Emmons, CFEVA Fellowship ’16-‘18

Portable and ephemeral building structures, improvised street furniture, and informal sites of exchange and adaptation inform the work of Amze Emmons. These places tell a story of local agency and community throughout Philadelphia and beyond, creating connections and symmetries in response to local needs (for food, shelter, community, commerce) in the face of the global trends of economic stagnation, shifting climate changes, and political estrangement. This improvised aesthetic reveals a narrative of shared perseverance in the face of uncertainty and hardship. Cataloging these repeating patterns in our daily world, the artist finds the informal temporary structures and their ingenious vernacular designs to be evidence of a community determined to survive in the face of system collapse.

Emmons has researched the historic intersections between print and drawing processes to find short-lived office printing technology (such as copying pencils, carbon paper) that made strange printmakers of clerks and office workers with no previous experience. By adopting these overlooked technologies the artist has incorporated elements of printmaking directly into his drawing practice. In this body of work he has also added grading pencils, hi-lighter pencils, and foil stamping into the mix, and used them in concert with traditional drawing pencils and gouache. Emmons is looking to explore how these experiments enhance the interplay between the gestural nature of drawing and the graphic artifactual language of print. This new body of work extends the artist’s interest in mapping connections between materials, visual culture history, and art history, while bringing him toward a more direct exploration of quotidian historical print processes and forms of obsolete labor.

Amze Emmons is a Philadelphia-based, multi-disciplinary artist with a background in drawing and printmaking. His images evoke a sense of magical/minimal realism inspired by architectural illustration, comic books, cartoon language, information graphics, news footage, consumer packaging, and instruction manuals.

Emmons received a BFA from Ohio Wesleyan University and a MA and MFA from the University of Iowa. He has held solo exhibitions in, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, among other locations. His work has been included in group exhibitions in innovative commercial galleries, artist-run spaces, and museums. Emmons has received numerous awards including a Fellowship in the Arts from the Independence Foundation; an Individual Creative Artist Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Arts Council; and a Fellowship at the MacDowell Colony. His work has received critical attention in Art in Print magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer,,, New American Paintings, as well as many other publications. He is currently an Associate Professor at Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia. Emmons is also a co-founder of the popular art group,


This work was completed during the artist’s Visual Artist Fellowship, a two year incubation program that is key in CFEVA's commitment to fostering artistic excellence and furthering its mission to help visual artists build sustainable careers. Artists are selected for this program annually by an independent Board of Artistic Advisors based on the merit of their artwork, demonstrated ability to reach stated goals, and a clear vision for the next level in their professional practice. Learn more about this fellowship and other CFEVA programs at

Image: Root Cause Analysis, copying pencil, colored pencil, gouache on handmade paper, 22x30", 2017

April 16
June 1, 2018
artist reception: 
Thursday, April 26, 2018
The Center for Emerging Visual Artists
237 S. 18th Street The Barclay, 3A
Philadelphia, PA 19103