Olga de Amaral transforms a range of materials—including precious metals, linen, and horsehair—into intense sculptural presences with a mesmerising opulence. Whether suspended in space or hung on the wall, her works are akin to rarefied artefacts, often glistening from the application of gold and silver leaf.Read More
De Amaral's distinctive art practice merges the fields of textiles, craft, and design. She first studied Architectural Design at the University College of Cundinamarca, Bogotá, before moving to the United States in 1952 to study textiles at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. She went on to teach at Maine's Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in the 1960s, and founded and directed the Textile Department at the University of the Andes in Bogotá upon returning to Colombia.
Throughout her 60-year career, de Amaral has been known for her innovation. Her 'off stretcher' techniques, which amalgamate handweaving, knotting, and painting, turn her materials into dynamic forms that are often as much about the reverse as the front. As de Amaral has explained, 'everything is construction and colour.'
De Amaral's artworks are also suffused with international influences and Colombian culture. Following travels to Japan in the 1950s and 1960s, she developed 'Fragmentos Completos' (Complete Fragments) the series (1975). Inspired by 'kintsugi', the tradition of repairing ceramics with gold, de Amaral worked gold leaf into her fibre-forms, embedding it within her weaves and accentuating the work's tactility. The gold equally references the liturgical value ascribed to it by pre-Columbian populations as well as its exploitation during colonial periods. 'Alquimia' (Alchemy), de Almaral's first full series with gold leaf begun in 1984, rebalances the history of extractive loss by celebrating ecological splendour through luminescence.
De Amaral's sensitivity and skill in manipulating colour, space, and structure have played a crucial role in postwar Latin American abstraction. Dazzling works like the series 'Pozos Azules' (Blue Wells) (2012–2013) at once draw on minimalist geometries and invigorate the woven structure with Colombia's visual character. The concentric patterns are compelling, and driven by de Amaral's desire 'to induce a state of silence in the places I install my art.'
De Amaral has received many prestigious accolades. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973 and represented Colombia at the Venice Biennale in 1986. In 2005, she was selected as a Visionary Artist by the Museum of Art and Design, New York. In 2019, she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's Caucus for Art, New York.
De Amaral's artwork has been exhibited internationally, including at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Museum of Modern Art, Japan. Her work is in major public collections, including the Tate Modern, London; the De Young Museum, San Francisco; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Museo Nacional de Colombia, Bogotà.
De Amaral's website can be found here.
Ocula | 2021