Rook & Raven announces a solo presentation of significant works by Colombian artist Olga De Amaral (b. 1932), from the 1970s to present day. Through her ground-breaking installations, Amaral has turned the art of two-dimensional figurative tapestry into a three dimensional abstract genre of work, incorporating fiber, paint, gesso and precious metals.
The artist’s use of non-traditional materials solidifies Amaral’s significance in the development of post-war Latin American abstraction. For this exhibition, works have been selected from the Estelas and Mementos Series, along with further individual works, which illustrate the development of her weaving techniques, use of colour and variation in scale.
Amaral employs a range of materials, from silver and gold leaf to brightly coloured pigments, all of which reference the landscape and cultural history of Colombia, which are then painstakingly incorporated into the fabric structures of her works over months of repeated hand application. Amaral’s works feel at once primitive and contemporary; they refer to indigenous traditions found in centuries-old civilizations, but their execution and presentation conform to concerns found in our own time.
They can appear ethereal and illusory, while others seem almost petrified by age. It is this duality that lends her work a timeless quality; her art is anthropological, exploring ideas found in the way we understand history expressed in objects and in the way in which we perceive form, colour, and material in the world around us.
In arguably her most significant series entitled Estelas; the importance of gold both as medium and colour is intrinsic to the nature of the work but also to the ideas of metaphysicality, which she is ultimately conveying through these woven tapestries.
Throughout history gold was considered the most precious of all metals; the perfect metal – the primordial nature of the traditional Golden Age, the ages, which followed (silver, bronze, and iron) marking the descending stages in the cycle. Gold is widely seen as a symbol of knowledge, as the essential yang. Gold, as claimed the Brahmans, represents immortality. The Aztecs considered gold as the new skin of the earth.
Amaral’s work can be described as bright, colourful, reflective and biomorphic as in the Mementos series, while at other times muted, dark, absorptive and geometric. The works exhibit the same capacity for creating the perception of infinite space found in the works of Modernist painters of the last century, from Kandinsky and Malevich to Reinhardt and Rothko. Likewise, her larger scale pieces have the capacity to feel intimate despite their size.
Amaral founded and directed the textiles department at the Universidad de los Andes (University of the Andes) in Bogotá in 1965. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973, and in 2005 was named ‘Artist Visionary’ by the Museum of Art and Design in New York. In 2008, she was honorary Co-Chair for the benefit of the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Amaral has exhibited in institutions worldwide and her work is represented in the collections of over forty museums. These include, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadephia Museum of Art, San Francisco’s De Young Museum, the Museum Bellerive in Zürich, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The artist currently lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia
OLGA DE AMARAL: ALCHEMIST – Rook & Raven – 16 October to 20 December, 2015