Forty Years of Olga de Amaral’s Shimmering, Sculptural Textiles
Though she originally studied architecture, the Colombian-born, Bogotá-based artist Olga de Amaral has become world-renowned for the way she has transformed the field of textile art. Still, Amaral’s affinity for architectural forms, angles, and materials is clear—as is her knack for packing abstract historical references into the simplest of substances.
“Alchemist,” currently on view at Rook & Raven, features textile objects that span 40 years of the artist’s career. Since 1973, when she was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, the artist has been exhibiting her textured, glinting installations across the globe. The works in “Alchemist” are primarily from her “Estelas” and “Mementos” series, and taken together the two bodies of work reveal the range of techniques that Amaral has fine-tuned over her career to create her fantastic sculptural works. “Estelas,” perhaps the artist’s best-known series, consists of rich, metallic, rippling cloth transformed into stand-alone sculptures. “Mementos,” in contrast, uses shimmering colors to create a mesmerizing, river-like pattern.
Amaral’s practice combines largely traditional processes with an innovative use of materials. Using linen, gesso, paint, and precious metals, she transforms cloth into a textured, gilded plane through a process that can take months. Her use of gold, in particular, evokes Columbia’s history—from Bogotá’s gilded churches to pre-Colombian artifacts. Her intimate geometric wall hangings recall the lush landscapes of her native country through darker jewel tones. “I think in impressions and concepts,” Amaral has said. “It’s very abstract.”
The artist utilizes a collective process to create these precious objects, employing the same seven women as her assistants for more than 30 years, in a studio arrangement she has likened to “an orchestra.” The results are pieces that, while perhaps abstract, are uncanny representations of cultural associations.
“Alchemist” is on view at Rook & Raven, London, Oct. 16–Nov. 28, 2015.