Jim Amaral’s Elegant Chariots Contemplate Death and Eternity

Full of mystery and elegance, Jim Amaral’s bronze sculptures currently grace Galerie Agnès Monplaisir as part of “Chariots of Humankind,” Amaral’s first solo at the Paris gallery. Like much of the octogenarian’s work, the chariots stem from a lifelong preoccupation with an inevitability many of us would rather ignore: death.

“So often over the years, I have wondered what dying must be like, to leave one world of shadows only to pass into another kind of darkness, the darkness of death,” Amaral has said. “This strange fascination infuses my sculptural work, so the question truly haunts me.”

A sculptor who is also an accomplished painter and draftsman, Amaral left the United States for Bogotá after completing his schooling in the early 1960s; he has lived in the Colombian capital ever since. His work calls upon a range of influences, including pre-Columbian art, indigenous crafts, Greek and Roman art, Western abstraction, and minimalism. These sources of inspiration come together in sculptures that appear at once ancient and modern, shaped not only by the artist’s meditations on death, but also by his musings on what comes after.

Each chariot is distinct, possessing its own powerful presence. They appear patinaed with age, as if they were excavated from an archaeological site. In some pieces, human figures share the chariot platforms with spheres, cubes, and spirals, while other chariots carry only shapes.

A great sphere, its lunar surface mottled and gray, is the lone passenger on Infernal Machine #3 (2013). Like the moon fallen from the sky, the celestial body sits regal and silent. Perhaps the sphere—a recurring shape in Amaral’s work—stands in for death, a phenomenon that has no physical form. “No one has ever remarked on this aspect [of death] in my creation, and maybe it’s not even apparent,” the artist has admitted. “But this voyage between two darknesses has been the focus of all my labor.”


Karen Kedmey


Jim Amaral: Chariots of Humankind” is on view at Galerie Agnès Monplaisir, Paris, Mar. 25–May 14, 2016.

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