PRESS: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE to all ARTS & CALENDAR EDITORS
June 20, 2017
WHAT: Olga de Amaral and Ruth Duckworth: Building on Beauty
August 18—October 28, 2017
No opening reception
WHERE: Bellas Artes Gallery
653 Canyon Road, Santa Fe
Olga de Amaral, Poblado M, 2017, linen, gesso, acrylic, gold leaf, 39 1⁄2 x 68 inches.
Photo credit: ©Diego Amaral
Olga de Amaral (b 1932) studied architectural design in her native Colombia. After
transferring to Michigan’s Cranbrook Academy where she studied textile art, Amaral
would become a key figure in post-War, Latin American abstraction. The architectural
aspect of her work continues to add to the tension between fabric and dimensionality.
Amaral likens her art to “painting in space;” her woven walls lay the foundations for a
postmodern meta-structure that collides undeniable loveliness with an intense degree
Ruth Duckworth (1919-2009), like Amaral, was not born in the United States, though
both artists have achieved great success here. Duckworth escaped to Britain from Nazi
Germany in the 1930s, and settled in the U.S. in the mid-’60s. Having investigated the
more traditional mediums of stone and bronze while studying sculpture in Liverpool, she
discovered clay. There, she “found her true voice as a sculptor,” according to Martin
Puryear. He wrote in the forward to Ruth Duckworth: Modernist Sculptor, published in
2004, “The ... form ... is both a metaphor and a vehicle for the organic feeling which ...
reflects [her] own deep empathy for the natural world.”
Ruth Duckworth, Untitled # 18377, c 1975, porcelain, graphite on Masonite board, 38 x 38 x 4 1⁄2 inches.
Photo credit: James Hart
Early on, Duckworth, like Amaral, exercised an independent mind by using a medium
that was not recognized within the pantheon of “high art” and its attendant formalism.
Clearly influenced by the Romanian modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi, as well as
deeply moved by the ancient art of the Cycladic culture that preceded that of classical
Greece, Duckworth developed her own abstractly elegant language, as has Amaral.
Separately, both artists challenged the machismo of mid-twentieth-century Modernism,
at the same time that they insisted upon moving beyond its restrictive dualism that
allowed for painting or sculpture and craft or fine art. Together, their artworks inhabit a
space that transcends the narrow confines of Modernism into its next phase, that of
Postmodernism. Their art feels somehow at home in Puryear’s “natural world,” as if we
have stepped into an infinite continuum that encompasses feral beauty and balanced
Amaral metaphorically freed the canvas from the frame, revealing a multidimensional
structure in space that relies on a high level of craftsmanship to justify its outstanding
exquisiteness and rich layers of meaning. Duckworth took advantage of the built
sensibility of clay—and our deep familiarity with it as a medium that has signified nature
and nurture since prehistoric human times. Using a reductive process that would come
to reveal the underlying forms she desired to expose, she employed a highly tactile and
organic style that was always abstract, no matter how much it referenced the natural
world. She played, with great success, with the tensions inherent in paradox—volume
gives way to negative space, light to shadow, and solidly functional surfaces slip into a
deliciously sensuous tactility.
Art historian Edward Lucie-Smith has written about Amaral that, while “there are in fact
no equivalents for what she makes in pre-Columbian archaeology, one feels that such
objects ought in logic to exist.” Her artworks hang on the walls with the weight and
presence of an ancient, pre-contact America. Like Duckworth’s clay constructions,
Amaral’s textiles are in fact modern abstractions that focus upon light, tactility, and a
process-driven physicality. They are ephemeral and timeless, and therein lies their
satisfying tension: Both artists’ works stand in for the past and the future within the
context of the present.
In 1964, Duckworth moved to Chicago from England. She settled in Chicago and lived
there until her death in 2009 at the age of 90—her indomitable spirit had her sculpting
into the last year of her life. Duckworth’s art never settled into one genre; it continued
to evolve and change throughout six decades of practice, though she confined herself to
three-dimensional work in clay, stone and bronze—creating commissioned wall reliefs in
porcelain and stoneware, as well as monumental bronze sculptures, at such sites as
government and university buildings, and for banks, private individuals, churches and
Duckworth’s exhibition record, both nationally and internationally, is extensive. Among
the museums that have collected her work are the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington, DC; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Moderns in Chicago and Tokyo; the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Museum of Arts and Design in New York;
Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco; Boston’s
Museum of Fine Art; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Stedelijk Museum in
Amsterdam; the Victoria and Albert in London; and Germany’s Kestner Museum. A
group exhibition, which in late 2016 traveled from the David Owsley Museum of Art at
Ball State University to the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame,
included Duckworth’s work alongside that of Henry Moore and Alexander Calder.
A Guggenheim Fellowship recipient early in her career, Amaral is a member of the
Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her work is in the
permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco’s De Young
Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New
York; and the Renwick Gallery of the National Gallery in Washington, DC; as well as in
museums and private collections in Paris, Zurich, Kyoto, Zurich, and London, and many
others including, of course, her hometown of Bogotá in Colombia. Renowned auction
houses Bonhams, Christie’s and Sotheby’s offer her work for sale. A curator at the
Nevada Museum of Art has included one of Amaral’s gold textiles for an exhibition titled
UNSETTLED, a landscape show that is being organized with the participation of
renowned artist Ed Ruscha.
Olga de Amaral in her studio. Ruth Duckworth in Chicago working on a 15-foot high
Photo credit:©Diego Amaral commission for the State of Illinois, 2008
Both artists began showing their work at Bellas Artes in 1986, in an exhibition titled Art
in Craft Media, curated by textile designer, author, and collector Jack Lenor Larsen, an
early and important mentor of the gallery’s owners, Bob and Charlotte Kornstein.
Bellas Artes Ltd.
653 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501