Amos Kennedy and MOCAD Teens

“Don’t call Amos Kennedy Jr. an artist. He is someone who “makes stuff” — a commercial printer, not a printmaker. Kennedy is deliberate in making these distinctions. In fact he never set out to become a printer. His career began in Chicago as a systems. At age 38, Kennedy visited Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia and saw a printing press for the first time. He decided to quit his job and become a printer. The rest is history.

 

Since then he has made his way to Detroit, Michigan. He often refers to himself as a “humble negro printer”. “I tell people that I am ‘negro’ because most people mistake me for africanamerican. There is a profound difference between ‘negro’ and africanamerican. My ancestors were the enslaved peoples whose labor built the wealth of this civilization.”

Kennedy’s desire to challenge carries throughout his work in an effort to change how viewers perceive and understand art, and in a macro sense, the world we live in. Each poster is letterpress printed on chipboard using handset wood and metal type and brightly colored, oil-based inks. His process involves variable overprinting on multiple layers of text, so no two pieces are exactly alike.

A large reason why Kennedy embraced letterpress printing, [is it] allows him to produce easily and quickly, ensuring mass production and distribution, one of the main goals of his work. Kennedy has a lot to say and he wants people to know it. “I was told years ago that everything you do is political,” Kennedy says, “and so my art is really a political statement. And the story of my art, when someone can actually cipher it out, is a statement of what I envision the world to be.”