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Olga de Amaral: Cuatro tiempos is the title of the retrospective exhibition of works presented by the textile artist at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá from November 1993 to February 1994. It is also the title of the catalogue essay written by the curator Eduardo Serrano who introduces the structural and visual mutation in de Amaral’s work in four stages. He begins by discussing the early stage of her career, a time when she established her “formal concerns” in terms of her palette of colors and her deep and lifelong cultural roots. On the other hand, Serrano indicates that her interest in experimentation during that early period led to her constantly flexible approach to structure in her work. In her second stage, in the early 1970s, de Amaral’s surfaces took on an increasingly sculptural look thanks to her emphasis on spatial construction and the influence of architecture. Serrano also notes her use of natural fibers and pre-woven forms, and refers to the impact of her project Gran maraña paramuna, a monumental tapestry that led her to rethink her artistic goals. Serrano describes the “third stage” when de Amaral reaches her “ultimate peak” in terms of the richness of her colors and textures, working at an overwhelming level of technical and aesthetic excellence that leaves no doubt that her tapestries are true works of art. In the fourth, final, and longest stage, Serrano highlights de Amaral’s visit to Paris and her exposure to European culture in the 1970s, an experience which he explains had a powerful influence that would be reflected in her work in the following decades.     


The essay “Cuatro tiempos” is important because it refers to four decades (1960-90) of continuous work by Olga de Amaral (b. 1932). It is also of interest because it clearly shows the evolution of her work in terms that help to clarify why she is considered a pioneer in the field of Colombian textile art, in company with Marlene Hoffman and Stella Bernal. Similarly, when Eduardo Serrano (b. 1939) analyzes her transformations and structural experiments of a sculptural nature, he highlights de Amaral’s textile contribution to the field of abstract sculpture in Colombia. She accomplished this by gradually transforming two-dimensional woven surfaces into three-dimensional ones, and by establishing a close relationship between tapestry and architectural space in her installations.       


It should be noted that before she returned to Colombia following her stint at the Cranbrook Academy of Art (Michigan, 1954-55), de Amaral studied “functional design” at the Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca in Bogotá, a college where she took classes from sculptors, such as Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar (1923-2004) and architects, such as Dicken Castro (b. 1922), both of whom were early promoters and advocates of design in Colombia. Also, in 1958, de Amaral and her husband, the (North) American artist Jim Amaral (b. 1933), opened the Taller de Tejidos Amaral, where they introduced an international influence into the field of contemporary textile design.       


Olga de Amaral studied architectural drawing at the Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca. She has won several prizes, including first prize at the XXII Salón de Artistas Nacionales (1971), a Guggenheim fellowship (1973), first prize at the Bienal de Arte de Coltejer (1974), and the Museum of Art and Design in New York recently awarded her the Visionary Artist Prize (2005). Her textile art is in important collections and has been exhibited at galleries and museums around the world such as the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris (1981) [doc. no. 1134371], the Centro Cultural de Belém, Portugal, with the exhibition Resonancias (2005), and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2007).


Eduardo Serrano was the curator at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá (1974-94). He has authored a number of publications, including: Un lustro visual: ensayos sobre arte contemporáneo colombiano [doc. no. 1076577], and Al fin pintura [doc. no. 1099111]. He currently (2010) lives in Bogotá and works as a freelance curator.

Eliana Salazar Moreno
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Eduardo Serrano Rueda, Bogotá, Colombia.
Courtesy of Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, Colombia