ARTBO Weekend: Azout and her ‘Umbrales’

In the territory that we now know as Colombia, there was never a Bronze Age, nor an Iron Age, because there was only one mineral that mattered: gold. So, our pre-Columbian ancestors would mold clay and work the abundant precious ore found on the earth’s surface to create magnificent objects with geometric shapes and figurines that referenced an abundant natural world.

Circles and spirals are common in pre-Columbian design and for artist Lydia Azout, metal is the protagonist in her search for pushing artistic boundaries, hence the title of her most recent exhibition “Umbrales” at the Alonso Garcés gallery in Bogotá’s La Macarena district.

A “Threshold” is an entrance – or more precisely – a piece of wood, metal, or stone that forms the bottom of a door. As one enters the gallery, there is a sensation of “having crossed over” to an age of metal and alchemical forces that require fire.

But crossing the threshold is also a spiritual experience and in the constellation that is contemporary Colombian art, Lydia Azout, has consolidated her most profound inner energies to create works of mathematical precision, of circles and spheres, that draw on ancestral design, but seem suspended by mysterious cosmic forces.

The sun is at the center of Azout’s artistic universe, and while there are other geometric shapes, from metal frame squares and pyramids, the artist gravitates to spheres for their “controlled spaces.”

Born in Bogotá, Azout took to sculpture while studying at the David Manzur workshop during early 1970s. She continued her studies in the Tuscan city of Lucca with the German–born, Uruguay–raised, and New York–based conceptual artist Luis Camnitzer. In 1988, she headed to the Institute of Marble and Art in Pietrasanta, also in Tuscany, and the same medieval village where the celebrated artist Fernando Botero constructs his bronze, monolithic masterpieces.

This desire for art to assume a larger than life role and one that shapes culture rather than a market, puts Azout on an creative pedestal, and while her creations are the end result of working hard natural elements, the whole process is one that is also documented from sketches in her dairy, to photographs and videos of works “in progress.”

Azout’s works fit into a greater social context, instead of being made–to–measure sculptures that adorn public space or a “threshold” to a building. They originate from some inner sanctum and “emerge from the same wonderment that gives rise to philosophy,” believes the artist. For Colombian poet Juan Gustavo Cobo Borda, Azout in her 1997 ‘Feminine Forces’ exhibition “achieved the most expressive and most perfect.”

Umbrales is the abstract representation of natural elements at work, the spiritual voyage of its artist, and external forces such as architecture and continuity of time. This for an audience is a lot to take in, but if you are willing to cross the “threshold” in art, then the gallery Alonso Garcés is a good place to start.

The Alonso Garcés Gallery is participating in ARTBO weekend May 20-21. Free admission.

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