Olga De Amaral (Colombian b. 1932)
Olga De Amaral (Colombian b. 1932)

Cesta Lunar 016

Olga De Amaral (Colombian b. 1932)
Cesta Lunar 016
signed, dated and inscribed 'Moon Basquet [sic] 016 (Lost Image) OLGA DE AMARAL 1992' (on a fabric label sewn on the reverse)
linen, silk and goldleaf
172½ x 59 in. (438.1 x 149.8 cm.)
Painted in 1992.
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner.

Lot Essay

This work is catalogued in the artist's studio under reference number 691.

We are grateful to Valentina Amaral for her assistance cataloguing this work.

I consider my Cesta Lunar series to be a clear example of thoughts woven into a surface. They express feelings that arose when I saw the baskets made by the Yanomami, a tribe in Venezuela known also as the Children of the Moon. I was fascinated by the compact straw basket weave, the elemental enclosing shapes, the achiote-red patina, and especially by the large, scattered circular motifs with which they decorated their baskets and bodies. This simple act of adornment revealed to me the unity they perceived between themselves, their objects, and their activities; the unity between their minds and the moon they revere. The plaiting I used to build the Cestas Lunares was meant to recall the elementary construction of their objects.
--Olga de Amaral[1]

Born in 1932, Olga de Amaral is one of the foremost textile artists in Latin America. Trained in the United States at the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, her work is equally informed by aspects of modernism, contemporary design, indigenous and colonial arts of the Americas, as well as traditional Japanese art. In a career spanning over five decades, Amaral has crafted a distinct approach to weaving that embraces a plethora of cultural and artistic sources while ably transcending the boundaries of craft, painting, sculpture, and installation art.

In the mid-1970s Amaral introduced the use of gold as an essential formal and signifying element in her woven work. The latter would soon become her signature leitmotif--one that eschews mere ornamentation in favor of asserting its enduring presence as one of the most basic materials among different cultures and civilizations throughout history. Indeed, Amaral's conscious retrieval of the ancient practice of weaving (albeit redefined within a contemporary idiom) coupled with her use of gold posits her works within a timeless continuum. In the present work Cesta Lunar 016, the sheer scale of the tapestry suggests a sense of permanence and continuity. Constructed from pre-woven strips of linen comprised of uniformly cut squares delicately sewn together, covered in gesso and painted in shimmering shades of gold, pewter, and black, the resulting surface suggests fallen leaves or a cascading golden waterfall. The vertical strands of linen tesserae, some positioned frontally, others twisted, or in profile reveal an optical explosion as shapes emerge and retreat as the viewer walks past the tapestry and light flickers over the uneven surfaces and textures. The overall visual effect is reminiscent of Byzantine mosaics or the lavish gold clad interiors of Spanish colonial churches.

The dynamic optical effects of Amaral's tapestries are not unlike those employed by kinetic forerunners Jesús Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez. Amaral's constructivist approach rooted in the iconic grid also recalls the work of another leading modernist pioneer, Joaquín Torres-García. Like Torres-García, Amaral believes in the ability of abstraction to convey meaning through the inscription of memory. So too the ancient practice of weaving is deeply linked to notions of history and language--fields of abstraction replete with symbolic import. In Amaral's able hands, meaning is re-activated and these seemingly disparate and latent histories are seamlessly woven together to create works of extraordinary substance and profundity.

1 O. de Amaral, "The House of My Imagination," Olga de Amaral: The Mantle of Memory (Paris: Galerie Agnès Montplaisir and Bogotá, Amaral Editores, S.A.S, 2013) 217-18.

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