It has always been my desire to induce a state of silence in the places I install my art.

Olga de Amaral

Between Art, Craft, and Architecture

Olga de Amaral's 'Lienzo Ceremonial III'

Olga de Amaral created Lienzo Ceremonial III in 1987just one year after representing her native Colombia at the Venice Biennale. As with other works in the series, this panel work features intricately woven cascades of linen falling over a painted surface. Indeed, the series is named for the Mesoamerican lienzo, an indigenous form of communication in which symbols are painted on cloth, and reflects Amaral's continual preoccupation with the land and history of her native country. For Amaral, the scale of the Lienzo Ceremoniales occupied a middle-ground between her earlier architectural works and smaller compositions. As Charles Talley wrote in his 1988 article for American Craft, "These works are, if anything, more atmospheric than descriptive. They have an evanescent quality which sets a mood without being theatrical or primarily decorative." 

Lienzo Ceremonial III illustrated in American Craft, April/May 1988

Olga de Amaral

Now recognized as a world-renowned artist and key figure in post-war Latin American abstraction, Olga de Amaral was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, and grew up in a traditional religious family before embarking on her education. She earned a degree in architectural design from the Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca, Bogotá and then studied fiber art at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan from 1954-55. The time spent at Cranbrook was germane to Amaral’s future development and where she states: “I lived my most intimate moments of solitude; there was born my certainty about color; its strength; I felt as if I loved color as though it were something tangible. I also learned to speak in color. I remember with nostalgia that experience in which souls touched hands.”

By 1965, Amaral had married, started a family and a textile workshop, and founded and taught at the Textile Department at the University of Los Andes in Bogotá. Additionally, she developed a professional and artistic relationship with Jack Lenor Larsen, who had visited Amaral’s workshop; the connection was pivotal for her blossoming career. The Amaral family moved to New York from 1966-67, where she displayed her tapestries in Larsen’s showroom. She also taught at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine before returning to Colombia. Over the coming years, the Amarals traveled around the world and lived in several countries. It was through these travels that she was exposed to a variety of artistic approaches and theories which, in addition to her home country’s religion and traditions, would all play a role in her oeuvre.

Though her early work is characterized by more traditional forms, techniques, and materials, by the late 1960s and early 1970s she was absorbing contemporary modern tendencies and morphing them into her own artistic language. Amaral broke with the fundamentals of fabric weaving and began leaving the warp out to float freely. Even in her “flat” pieces she incorporated texture and rhythms, creating works that blurred the boundaries between craft and fine art. From then until the present day she has continued to adopt and experiment with new materials (chief among them gesso and gold leaf, inspired by Japanese kintsugi), techniques, and processes in a wide range of series that explore not only notions of space, representation, and personal expression, but also Colombia's pre-Hispanic art, indigenous weaving traditions, and the Spanish Colonial Baroque legacy.

Revered in both academic and artistic circles, Amaral is the recipient of many distinguished awards and recognitions, including: Member of the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2010), Visionary Artist recognition by the Museum of Art & Design, New York (2005), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1973), and First Prize in the XXII Salón Nacional de Artistas, Bogotá (1971). Her work is represented in the permanent collections of over forty museums, among them the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and she has had innumerable solo and group exhibitions since the 1950s.

Auction Results Olga de Amaral