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Amanda Williams / 'What black is this, you say? ' Napkins

$ 85.00

Open Editions partners with EXPO CHICAGO and Chicago-based artist Amanda Williams to present What black is this, you say? , a work that responds to the artist’s multi-platform conceptual project. Proceeds from the sale of this product will benefit Enrich Chicago to support Anti-Racism Learning workshops, capacity-building training, and leadership development for Rising Arts Leaders of Color*

In this collectible and functional edition, a collaboration between EXPO CHICAGO and Open Editions, the artist’s blacks are presented as embroidered fabrics in a set of six dinner napkins. Each napkin in the set is sewn from a different type of fabric—cottons, linens, and silks—to portray a range of shade and texture.  This edition includes an artist-designed swatch card, which features the fabrics in a conventional grid, paired with captions used in the original series.

  • Produced by Open-Editions
  • Made in California
  • Napkins measure 18.75" x 18.75"
  • Fabrics include: Cotton muslin, cotton canvas, raw silk, linen, cotton twill
  • Machine-wash, air dry

Artist Statement

What black is this you say? is a series that originated as artist Amanda Williams’ response to the Instagram ‘black out’ on June 2, 2020.[1] The trending takeover of black squares publicly swept the platform in an effort to show solidarity with the #blacklivesmatter movement. Over 28 million users posted a plain black square along with the hashtag #blackouttuesday. The impulse, however well-intentioned, was fraught with political and social tension, as the algorithms inherent within the app were actively silencing the BLM hashtag, whose aggregate acted as a primary communications resource for activists and protestors following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. This black out of communication, of non-information, is challenged in Williams’ work, whose posts evoke a more complex narrative of color, theory, and criticism in the public realm.

The work, which occupies the digital space of the artist’s personal account, is viewed in two parts: through image, and through text. The conventional square format images, often abstracted, picture different hues of black that are captured either by the camera closing in so closely on the subject that it is overturned by imperfect shadows, or otherwise details of recognizable black objects within the artist’s immediate surroundings or familial history. Each of the image tiles within the artist’s Instagram feed are accompanied by a caption: at once sardonic, witty, intimate, and grave. As the artist writes, “You can’t just say ‘black’…which one?” As a collection, Williams’ blacks portray a response to the visual culture of protest with the artist’s feeling and inquiry into the forms and systems that surround us.\

[1] Black Out Tuesday was originally initiated by music executives Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, Senior Director of Marketing at Atlantic Records as a way to call attention to injustice in the music industry and show solidarity with global protests about racial injustice and police violence sparked by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.


Amanda Williams (b. Evanston, 1974) is a visual artist who trained as an architect. Williams’ creative practice employs color as a way to draw attention to the complexities of race, place, and value in cities. The landscapes in which she operates belong to the visual residue of the invisible policies and forces that have misshapen most inner cities. The artist’s installations, paintings, and works on paper seek to inspire new ways of looking at the familiar, raising questions about the state of urban space and citizenship in America. Amanda has exhibited widely, including the Venice Architecture Biennale, a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago, and a public project with the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis. She is a USA Ford Fellow, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors grantee, an Efroymson Family Arts Fellow, a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, and a member of the museum design team for the Obama Presidential Center. Her works are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. Williams often lectures on the subject of art and design in the public realm, including talks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New Museum's Ideas City series. Williams lives / works in Chicago, and is represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery.


See more of Amanda's work HERE

*100% of all sales from the first production run of napkins available in July 2020 will be donated to Enrich Chicago. 10% of the sales from subsequent production runs of napkins, made available at EXPO CHICAGO in 2021, will be donated to Enrich Chicago in addition to 10% of the sales paid to the artist as a royalty.