This chronology is a corrected and expanded version of the one originally written by Santiago Londoño Vélez for the retrospective exhibition catalogue Jim Amaral: Trans/figurations 1964-2004, Bogotá, Banco de la República, Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, November 2004 to February 2005.
1933-1954 John James (Jim) Amaral Jr. was born on March 3 in Pleasanton, a rural town of 1,500 people near San Francisco Bay, CA. Jim is the youngest of John Amaral and Ruth Ratti’s two sons. John Amaral was born in the Azores and immigrated to America at the age of twelve to work with an affluent uncle. At the age of twenty-five, John Amaral traveled to Pleasanton to visit his cousin, a farmer. There he met his future wife, who was a Pleasanton native but born to Italians. Jim Amaral’s hometown was a chiefly rural place, of simple character and without major religious interests. Jim recalls Pleasanton as “a common place, half lost and without great mystery, so I was taught since I was a child to live in internal exile.”
Throughout high school in Pleasanton, Jim wrote poetry. Upon graduation, Jim’s father wished for him to pursue a liberal profession such as dentistry or medicine so he sent him to Stanford University, where Jim enrolled in September 1950. Having no interest in those disciplines, however, he left Stanford in June 1952. He took a course in art history that presaged the path he would ultimately take. He enrolled at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA in September 1952, where he remained until June 1953 and studied a variety of subjects, among them history of architecture. Over the summer, he took courses in art and history at the University of California at Berkeley. He considered specializing in architecture, but ultimately returned to Stanford and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in 1954.
1954-1955 Jim pursued graduate studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI, where he was admitted by the recommendation of one of his Stanford professors. There he took sculpture and design classes and met the Colombian artist Olga Ceballos Vélez, who was studying design and fiber art at the same academy. After finishing at Cranbrook, Jim traveled to San Francisco where he worked at the city’s most important furniture store as exhibitions manager between August and November 1955.
1955-1957 In November 1955, Jim was drafted into the US Navy and stationed in the tropical rainforest north of Manila until September 1957. While in the Philippines, he wrote poems and traveled into the island’s interior. “I suffered a lot because, as always, I felt like a fish out of water.” At the end of September, he decided to visit Olga Ceballos in Bogotá. They married in December 1957. By that time, she had already established a studio producing artisanal textiles which supplied several stores in the city as well as the architect Fernando Martínez Sanabria.
1958 Jim was hired as head of Design and Decor by the firm Ervico, recently merged with Camacho Roldán & Cía., a traditional furniture manufacturer from Bogotá. “I did not speak Spanish at all. Even so, with language barriers, I began working on design and decor. I was one of the few Americans who had come to Bogotá of their own volition, and it was not easy to adapt.” He designed furniture and interiors for residences and offices.
Jim’s first child Diego was born.
1959 Jim quit his job as designer and became a full-time artist. He made his first sculptures at Gerardo Benítez’s foundry, the only one in Bogotá at that time. “The smelter at the foundry damaged so many of my pieces that I stopped going. Many objects were damaged before I could see them finished. That was very depressing.” Given the technical difficulties of sculpture, he began producing collages and abstract drawings.
1960 Jim’s second child Andrea was born.
1962 First solo exhibition at Vorpal Gallery, San Francisco, CA.
Evoking the early years of the sixties, the artist says:
It was the final years of the beatniks. The gallery was behind the famous City Lights Bookstore, where poets and writers gathered. I showed small format ink drawings, full of tangled, erotic, yet humorous figures. At that time, the transition from the beatniks to the hippies was beginning, with intimations of a new attitude towards sex, which wasn’t a common topic of conversation or art.
I was very anxious at the time. Then a deep depression hit me, and I began psychoanalysis. That was important because I began drawing again […] they were psychological, psychoanalytical drawings. There were images that came to me and I kept drawing them. And at the same time I was doing pure abstract textures. It was sheer obsession with mastering the work, controlling the craft. I did these things to see how much control I could attain over the quill.
1964 On April 1, Amaral’s first solo exhibition in Colombia opened at Galería El Callejón, which was attached to Librería Central in Bogotá and directed by Adalbert Meindl. For the critic Walter Engel, the exhibition —consisting of drawings, collages and oil paintings— was “original and good.” Thirty-nine years later, Amaral commented: “I never thought I could do anything. That is why my first drawings were very simple, very elementary, very basic. It was acceptable at that time. In the sixties, everybody was doing whatever they wanted and I started doing that.”
1966 Jim exhibited alongside his wife, Olga de Amaral, at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas. The exhibition included abstract paintings and small format drawings.
Amaral exhibited abstract oil paintings and drawings at Galería Colseguros, Bogotá. According to the poet Mario Rivero:
[…] it is necessary to accept that Amaral’s exhibition at Colseguros represents a serious, considered effort: there are magnificent drawings, some oil paintings that are bad and others that fail to break with plain decor, but a true temperament and a conscious planning of behavior is apparent. Lines rise and fall, perhaps they run away and chase themselves in a multiple trajectory, contorted, forming angles that embrace and advance, sometimes creating an impression of energy, and at other times of contention and discipline, abrupt as a slam on the brakes.
In the middle of the year, Jim moved with his family to New York and remained there for about twelve months. An art dealer in the city sold some of Jim’s drawings.
1967 Jim returned to Colombia to visit Popayán, Tierradentro and San Agustín.
He taught drawing at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.
He returned once again to Colombia. Between 1967 and 1969 he taught drawing at the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogotá. For Jim, the experience was unpleasant:
The students bored me a lot, but mostly my own voice bored me, repeating the same things term after term. I am not confident that I can teach drawing. I preferred freshmen, because I could teach them how to use pencil or charcoal as if they were tools, but teaching someone how to draw a still life and things like that is something else. At that point, if someone has the talent, they’ll do it. If they don’t… of course, sometimes the opposite is true. One who does not have talent may be a more interesting creator, since he is forced to find another way to express himself.
1968 Jim exhibited at Arleigh Gallery, San Francisco; Eve Goldschmidt Gallery, New York (group exhibition); and Galería San Diego, Bogotá.
He traveled to Perú where he visited Cuzco and Machu Picchu.
1969 Jim exhibited at Benson Gallery in Southampton, New York. For the first time, the artist showed his figurative drawings at Galería Buchholz, Bogotá.
1970 First trip to Europe. The Amaral family lived in Barcelona from August to December.
1971 The family moved from Barcelona to Paris, where they lived from January to June. Trips to Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, and England.
Solo exhibition at Galerie Albert Loeb, Paris, opened to great critical regard. “There I felt that for the first time in my life people understood what I was doing.” On the invitation to the show, Marc Pierret wrote:
Amaral’s drawings have the innocence and grace of that freedom of creating without constraints. […] The line of his pen leads, through a leaden dream, to the vagueness of those first days when language had yet to be invented. […] Amaral reads within the ashes of la petite mort the signals of desire that dazzle the sheep of eroticism. If they count to one hundred, they may wake up; if not, they may explode with a stroke of the pencil in the eye.
The surrealist poet André Pieyre de Mandiargues (1909-1991), translator of Jorge Zalamea and friend to André Breton, a man with extensive links to the avant-garde French intellectual world, wrote an article for the Parisian monthly paper Siècle X (reproduced in the newspaper El Tiempo, Bogotá):
Amaral’s exhibition at Galerie Loeb
[…] I know of none among the new ones who is as lively, as genuinely pure, as close to true surrealism, than the young American Jim Amaral, whose drawings are currently exhibited at Galerie Albert Loeb.
Bellmer is, undoubtedly, the name that could be evoked in that dark back room illuminated by big black boxes. We discover the singular anatomical variations executed by an artist who relishes deconstructing the body of both man and woman at will into interchangeable elements and rebuilding the foundations of eroticism with a fantasy that is somewhere between scandal and humor. The evocation I am referring to serves more to mark the differences than the similarities. The main difference is that the work of the Polish1 master approaches the world of cruelty and crime, whereas the one of Jim Amaral approaches innocence with an execution that is delicate, penetrating, and incisive. […]
But from a purely graphic point of view, the delicacy of Amaral’s work on his stucco-lined paper sheets also makes one think of Ingres’ monstrous anatomies, in which Amaral’s were already announced, the prodigious outburst of body parts. Just as the near-sighted lean towards details as if to touch them rather than see them and then are suddenly surprised and amazed to find themselves in the vicinity of something that challenges norms and common sense so that they retire from it, Amaral provides us with lenses to see the fantastic and we are subsumed into something that, although we may not like, does not forbear us from its charm.
The art critic Jacques Leenhardt, in commenting on Amaral’s drawings, considered that they renewed the surrealist tradition:
[…] Less lyrical and less baroque than Bellmer’s, Amaral’s drawings offend by their precision. As with every deeply obsessive work, in that of Amaral, detail becomes an essential reality that invades the blank sheet of paper. It is from here that a world is rebuilt. Here these details still belong to that arsenal known as the erotic, but their true function in Amaral’s drawings is to play as words in a sentence, as notes in an arpeggio. The issue is therefore to transcend a visually correct composition, assured within the circle of an obsession that with joy and anguish continually asserts itself.
1972 Jim returned to Bogotá. He made several trips throughout Colombia.
At Galería Belarca, Bogotá, he exhibited 35 pencil and watercolor drawings on paper prepared with gesso, a technique that Jim began employing in Paris the previous year. “The topic of the exhibition was human body parts responding sensually at a level of the psyche.”
Amaral had group exhibitions at Galerie Alfonse Chave in Vence, France and Galerie Maia in Brussels.
1973 Jim exhibited an outstanding series of mixed media drawings at Galerie Arta in Geneva and Galerie Albert Loeb in Paris, including Love Letters (1971-1972; and Reflections of a Monologue I and II (1973).
Jim participated in a group exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá.
1974 Second stay in Paris until 1975.
Jim had shows at Galleria del Naviglio, Milan and Galerie Albert Loeb, Paris, where he exhibited mixed media pencil drawings, boxes, and objects. Jim participated in the group exhibition of Graphic Arts at Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia in Cali, Colombia.
1975 Jim exhibited at Galería Conkright in Caracas; XXII Florence Biennial (group exhibition); and XXV Salón Nacional de Artes Visuales [National Salon of Visual Arts] at the Museo Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá (group exhibition).
Amaral published the portfolio A Landscape in Seven Parts, a set of seven engravings (Paris, Le Soleil Noir Éditeurs).
He exhibited assemblages, books, objects, and intervened photographs at Galerie Singulier-Pluriel in Brussels (group exhibition).
Jim exhibited at Galería Belarca, Bogotá. According to Ortega Ricaurte, Jim’s works are “… drawings with faces and anatomical elements in unreasonable shapes.”
Amaral exhibited at Galería Adler & Castillo in Caracas.
1976 Jim exhibited at Galerie Aix, Stockholm and Galleria del Naviglio, Milan.
He exhibited at Galleria del Naviglio Venezia, Venice; Galerie Maia, Brussels (group exhibition); and Galerie Octave Negru, Paris (group exhibition). At the gallery of the Centro Colombo Americano in Bogotá, Jim and Olga de Amaral exhibited a varied collection of textiles, tapestries, and knits.
1977 Amaral published a portfolio of seven colored drypoint etchings entitled Landscapes (Paris, Le Soleil Noir Éditeurs), accompanied by Robert Brasillach’s translation of La nuit d’Oedipe [Oedipus’ Night], an extract of Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Rex.
Jim exhibited drawings, gouaches, and the seven etchings from Landscapes at Galerie Singulier-Pluriel, Brussels. Two commentators wrote about the exhibition:
Amaral is one of the few draftsmen and engravers who impresses me the most for his power to translate his ghosts onto the copper mirror or linen paper. The oneiric reality is more apparent than the immediate reality, because in his drawings of great purity the vibrant discourse of the sexual impulse becomes transparent. He is among the few that shows us that eroticism is a force, a path to knowledge.
The accuracy of Amaral’s images, as opposed to the apparent ease with which they are written, the rigor of the strokes combined with the intelligence with which the artist makes his approaches, the balance evident in his combination of images, undoubtedly explains their psychological impact. His concern for the accuracy of the reproductions of organs or parts of the human body, bringing them together without mixing them, does not prevent the artist from playfully creating ambiguities, dubious images. […] Galerie Singulier-Pluriel exhibits drawings and dense gouaches which makes the undulating paper rigid, fixed by thin steel threads supported by numerous visible nails.
The artist exhibited at Galerie Octave Negru, Paris. In the exhibition catalog, Negru noted:
His prodigious talent for the creation of signs […] is matched by a restless and complex experimental spirit, which can only be satisfied by the most sophisticated mixtures of color and medium and the most meticulous preparation.
The exhibition received the attention of several publications. According to Pierre Mazars, of the prestigious French daily Le Figaro:
When a painter titles his work, it is not uncommon for them to bypass the meaning they acquire in the spectator’s spirit. Amaral finds the definition that is appropriate, not only to each of his works, but to the universe he has created: An Elusive Hand, Landscape on a Haze, A Mask’s Incomplete Fragments… Better than a description, these few words say everything about those bodies etched on sheets of wrinkled paper, resembling a land worn by time, furrowed with wrinkles like a face.
Michael Gibson reviewed the exhibition in Art News:
Amaral´s exhibition took place at Galerie Octave Negru and consisted of drawings and paintings, all of an exquisite delicacy. Nose, lips, nipple, thumb, ear, tooth, and penis are some of the letters of an alphabet with which he creates suggestive, multiple discourses within an intricate space. “I hear people say that my work is erotic,” says Amaral. “I don’t think of it that way. But then I am surprised, almost confused, when I see how disturbed they are at the sight of a penis.” His metaphors go to the linguistic or to the musical: “I´m looking for a language to understand things with,” he says. In terms of music he speaks as though the juxtaposed spaces were musical movements in which a given motif —a profile, a hand— is reiterated with variations.
It is a subdued, lyrical art, which may have its departure in some sort of difficulty but does not dwell on it. The soft and hard parts of the body, presented as symbols rather than as obsessions, refer one to such things as tenderness and death.
Amaral is an exceptional draftsman. Twenty years ago, at Stanford, he says he was the worst in his class. Ten years ago he decided to teach himself to draw. He uses mixed media on a flexible base (paper, parchment) including gouache, watercolor, collage, nails. One drawing is done on a sixteenth century photograph that he bought in the flea market; others use old letters or, to comic effect, old photographs.
In another article, the same author wrote:
Admirably painted and barely describable, these compositions by Amaral (drawings, paintings, and collages) contain identifiable elements which are the sensitive extremities of the body (fingers, nose, ears, nipple, penis, etc.) grafted together in disquieting ways: ear to finger to nipple, for instance. The obsessive aspect that is immediately obvious is strangely persuasive and seductive by the grace of Amaral’s refined art and his uncanny sense of composition.
An extensive commentary was published in the magazine Arts Lettres:
[…] Amaral reveals to us “the sexual aspect of objects and beings.” He is the painter of the bisexual. Through his work, we are invited to decipher nature in its complexity. His gouaches, drawings, and paintings are locks that when opened reveal the true code of this mysterious language of the objects and shapes of the world. An erotic painter, to be sure, but one that offers a return to the simple reading of a child who sees only what is evident and for whom even ambiguity is true. Amaral has abolished the contradictions that have artificially been projected onto the universe by categories of intelligence. His art suggests a method of penetration that is beyond language, a wonderful and lucid way to reveal essences and beings without resorting to culture or logic. Transcendent painting.
Jim exhibited at Galería de Arte Diners, Bogotá.
1978 Jim exhibited at Galería Garcés Velásquez, Bogotá. In an article covering the opening, the artist described his purpose:
I just try to understand the world, to live through my painting. I try to understand certain enigmas, like the energies of life and death, the loneliness of man. […] I produce paintings that make people think, avoiding a purely visual impact.
Octave Negru organized an exhibition of Amaral’s works at Levy Galerie, Hamburg.
The artist participated in American Drawn and Matched at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (group exhibition); L’Estampe Aujourd’hui at Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris (group exhibition); Why poets in a hollow age? at Galerie Nina Dausset, Paris (group exhibition); and Galerie Sylvie Bourdon, Paris (group exhibition). About the last exhibition, René Micha wrote in Art International:
Amaral […] paints with oil or watercolors, on linen, paper, or parchment, mounted and frequently nailed onto wood. He uses few colors, his favorites being beige, rose, green, and purple. Just as Lavater went from the frog to Apollo, Amaral moves from sex to animated nature or semantics. His work is not meant to provoke but to acclimate the viewer to a kind of sexuality of manic formal symbolism.
1979 Jim moved back to Paris where he stayed until 1980.
He participated in Lacourière & Frélaut at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris (group exhibition); Galleria del Naviglio, Milan; and Galleria del Naviglio Venezia, Venice.
1980 Jim exhibited the series Invisible Flowers (FIGS. 63–68 y 285), made up of three groups of thirty specimens each, drawn in pencil and gouache at Galerie Albert Loeb, Paris; Galería Garcés Velásquez, Bogotá; and Vorpal Gallery, San Francisco, CA.
At Galería Garcés Velásquez, Bogotá, the artist also presented the series Dried Fruit (FIGS. 72 y 234) and Tiresias (FIGS. 91, 263–264 y 353). The same gallery published a portfolio of lithographs of Invisible Flowers. On this series, the critic Eduardo Márceles Daconte wrote:
Exploring painting for the first time, Amaral exhibits a series of paintings in simple compositions with an emphasis on color. True to his intention to obtain a dialectical balance between color and a formal lexicon —one that may seem offensive or immodest to certain susceptible people— Amaral strives to soften his tones, usually pastels within a generally subtle line, that mitigate any feeling of animosity towards the observer.
Jim exhibited at Galerie Le Salon d’Art, Brussels and at the Chicago Art Fair in collaboration with Galerie Octave Negru, Paris.
Amaral visited his ill father in California, after which Amaral and his wife returned to the textile studio in Bogotá.
1981 Amaral’s father died.
Jim exhibited the series Invisible Flowers at Galería Partes, Medellín.
1982 Jim participated in the IX International Contemporary Art Fair, Paris in collaboration with Galerie Fred Lanzenberg from Brussels.
1983 Between April and May, Jim exhibited Metamorphosis, a retrospective exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá with more than 150 works, including oil paintings, assemblages, collages, and drawings. In the catalog, José Donoso wrote:
Amaral’s paintings, cold and evocative more than passionate, are pure sensuality, as if he painted not so that his work be harvested by the eyes, but rather by all the senses driven mad with sensuality. It is a provocation and a vengeance: a synthesis of apparent opposites, since sex, besides being voluptuous, is terrible—love is dangerous, pleasure and pain are one, delicacy and brutality, fragility and affront, joy and jolt are nothing more than parts that make up a transcendent whole that, like everything with Amaral, carries within itself the seed of the perishable, the voluptuous, and death.
Jacques Leenhardt, from the École des Hautes Etudes in Paris, concluded his study of the artist writing:
Without exuberance and through a precise, refined, stubborn work, a life is named and narrated in a dialogue with its own boundaries. There are those who thrust a violent gesture upon a canvas, and that allows them to believe that they are alive. Amaral is not so desperate. Through a long, pictorial meditation, he seeks to renew his objects and his forms without allowing them to escape from their original spectrum, that is, from the mystery being exerted in the work—or rather, that appears before us and finally in us, we who are like paintings on the threshold of the marble flagstone.
The critic Francisco Gil Tovar described Amaral’s style as neo-mannerist:
I have spoken of saturnalism, hermaphroditism, monstrosity, extravagance, ambiguity, eroticism, mystery, reverie, refinement, strangeness, and wit. Very well: all that constitutes the work of Jim Amaral, whom I do not hesitate to describe as a neo-mannerist […] Now he enters this more serious yet penetrating stage, in our opinion, but no less saturnal and certainly equally careful and elaborate […] Besides pointing out the rigor that his aesthetic of ambiguity and mystery has been developing, it is not excessive to note the high material quality of his meticulous work.
On the exhibition, Marta Traba commented:
Jim Amaral has been refining his expertise as a painter year after year. The beauty of decadence is transmitted through complex, laborious, difficult techniques in his work; for this reason, his work is condemned to relative solitude within the Colombian panorama.
According to the Colombian art critic Germán Rubiano Caballero:
Amaral’s work is basically ambiguous, beginning from the way he handles his materials. The artist always prefers mixed media, and it is not much of a stretch to say that the bulk of his work is the result of the unbreakable union of drawing and painting.
[…] Amaral’s work is, above all, a painful reflection on the human condition, on mortality, and on sexual ambivalence. […]
Another constant aspect of Amaral’s work has to do with contradiction. At first glance, his works are dark, dreamy, or openly irrational. Yet a closer look is enough to see how behind the rough surfaces and the body fragments there is a structure that at the very least establishes a square or a base or a pedestal that organizes the space or serves as a foundation for the image rendered.
The artist represented Colombia at the XVII São Paulo Biennial in Brazil with a set of works entitled Life is a Transient Transformation. He was included in the section dedicated to the movements and artists who have significantly contributed to contemporary art:
Using means as different as pottery, assemblage, oil painting, and collage, Jim finds his own language, where the consciousness of living assaults the viewer through his senses and floods them with sensuality. His work is a constant introspection, a search for new formulas, which he discovers without failing to represent his initial idea.
Jim exhibited at Galerie Fred Lanzenberg, Brussels and participated in Workshop Art at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (group exhibition).
1984 Jim exhibited paintings, sculptures, and drawings at Galería de Arte Diners, Bogotá. He showed works such as Tiresias, Mourning Fruit (FIGS. 69–71, 73, 233 y 349), and Useless Tables (FIGS. 343–348). In an essay, Mario Rivero gave his opinion:
I would say that Amaral as a painter is not interested in being understood. His real job is not to exert his talent for communication. Questioning himself irrepressibly, almost from the position of the mystic or the moralist, he brings forth a sensitivity that causes the blood of language to sprout from the gashes of lacerating eroticism.
Jim exhibited at Amazoni Art Gallery, New York.
Galería Arte Autopista, Medellín exhibited a retrospective of the last ten years of his work:
Jim Amaral is an artist of few words, with a silent and petrifying body of work that speaks through its pores, its texture, organs other than the mouth, reaching for another kind of sexuality as part of the personal, intellectual, and poetic search of the artist. […] Eroticism in the work of Jim Amaral has overcome the moralism of the public, “because my drawings are very aesthetic, subtle.” With the same sensuality with which he approaches sex, he addresses death and the surrounding silence. For fifteen years, he has been engulfed by these topics, “which are not obsessions” clarifies the artist. “I am looking for another way to understand something that is part of our life.”
1985 Jim exhibited at Galería Quintero, Barranquilla.
1986 Amaral exhibited Pinturas y artefactos [Paintings and Artifacts] at Galería Garcés Velásquez, Bogotá and Galería Siete-Siete, Caracas; Cien años de arte en Colombia [One Hundred Years of Art in Colombia] at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Bogotá (group exhibition, also traveled to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Rome); and at Green Gallery, Miami, FL.
1987 Jim participated in the XIV International Contemporary Art Fair, Paris in collaboration with Galería Garcés Velásquez, Bogotá with seventeen paintings from the series De Profundis (FIGS. 289–290), Memento Mori, and Moon Door (FIG. 296).
María Lucía Lloreda wrote:
These works, produced almost entirely in 1987, continue his investigation of the fight against death, alluding to the mystery of life and the ambivalence man feels in the face of his finiteness. […] For Amaral, the driving forces of life and creativity are sensuality and eroticism, which have become recurring themes in his output.
In a monograph on the artist, Francisco Gil Tovar concluded:
Amaral is an artist of questions and anguish about man and his world. In this way, he is a man out of time and space—he can be placed anywhere—a man absolutely free and absolutely a prisoner of his own detachment.
Amaral participated in the XXXI Salón Anual de Artistas Colombianos [Annual Salon of Colombian Artists] at Olaya Herrera airport in Medellín (group exhibition); Los maestros, tres obras, tres décadas, 1960-1980 [The Masters, Three Works, Three Decades, 1960-1980] at Galería Diners, Bogotá (group exhibition); and Dibujantes colombianos modernos, un gran examen [Modern Colombian Draftsmen, A Great Review] at the Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá (group exhibition).
1988 Jim exhibited Pinturas y mesas [Paintings and Tables] at Galería Garcés Velásquez, Bogotá. On this occasion, Amaral described his work and its purpose:
My paintings are dense, they are produced with many layers of acrylic; as I saturate the space, the possibilities for emptiness grow. […] The fruit is a contradiction, because it usually represents life, but these ones are dry, soft, or stony—better said, they are lonely.
Regarding the furniture, he said the following:
The tables are nothing more than a respite from painting, objects that are accessible to the public. They present no major problems to solve, you don’t have to think too much about them.
He exhibited at Galería Arte Autopista, Medellín.
Valentina, his first granddaughter, is born.
1989 Amaral traveled to Santa Fe in New Mexico to accompany his wife to present an important exhibition. There he discovered the Shidoni Foundry and began working once again on bronze sculptures.
His work was exhibited in Donations Daniel Cordier at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (group exhibition); Museo de Arte Moderno, Bogotá (group exhibition); Grandes Maestros [Great Masters] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition); Exposición de Navidad [Christmas Exhibition] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition); and at ARCO 89, the Madrid International Contemporary Art Fair in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá.
He taught drawing at UCLA in California.
1990 Amaral exhibited at Elite Fine Arts, Miami (group exhibition); Shidoni Contemporary Gallery, Tesuque, NM (group exhibition); Los Angeles Art Fair in California; Grandes obras, grandes maestros [Great Works, Great Masters] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition); the portfolio From Music to Painting at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition); El paisaje [The Landscape], tribute to Antonio Barrera at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition); and Colombian Figurative at Moss Gallery in San Francisco, CA (group exhibition). The following text was written for the exhibition Colombian Figurative:
Each of his graphic propositions based on the human body surprises the viewer due to the numberless possibilities they offer for interpretation when representing isolated parts. When the spectator believes he has recognized a form, for instance, a flower, it immediately becomes a part of the human body […] the small drawings are intimate, almost private. They belong to a strange, amusing paradise where happiness has been combined with desire and loneliness.
1991 Amaral exhibited Soliloquies at Shidoni Contemporary Gallery, Tesuque, NM. The journalist María Cristina Pignalosa described the exhibit:
It is a series of three-dimensional bronze works, some very large and with various patinas that contain their new aesthetic approaches. Others are heads or faces posing as masks, moon-gazers, shell-heads with hinges that can open or shut and remind one of cosmic chests. They are subtle sculptural poems, shapes that contain other of his interpretations of daily life. In addition, he exhibits some pencil drawings of fantastic animals, androgynous beings, and erotic fauna.
Leslie Allison, from the The Santa Fe New Mexican, commented:
[…] The life-size human forms are endowed with small, impotent wings and feathers that bespeak the fragile dreams of earthly existence. […] Faceless bodies sprout groping tentacles, and hollow masks pose fundamental questions of immortality.
Amaral exhibited Artistas y orfebres [Artists and Goldsmiths] at Galería Deimos, Bogotá (group exhibition); Maestros de la pintura [Masters of Painting] at the Colombian Center, New York (group exhibition); and Antes y ahora [Before and Now] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition) and Galería Alfred Wild, Bogotá. On this exhibition, the poet Juan Manuel Roca wrote:
When one approaches the sculptures of Jim Amaral they appear static, silent. But at the slightest lapse, if one looks back at them, like Lot’s wife, it is the observer that turns out to be static—their volume and shadows have changed and they have taken on autonomous movement. Being mutant beings, amphibious in their androgyny, his sculptures achieve this visual effect.
Amaral exhibited at the Bogotá International Art Fair in collaboration with Galería Alfred Wild (group exhibition); Los Angeles Art Fair in California; Shidoni Contemporary Gallery, Tesuque, NM (group exhibition); Painting. Art de la Colombie [Painting: Art from Colombia] at the Colombian Center in New York and at the Maison Hamel-Bruneau Sainte Foy in Quebec, Canada (group exhibition).
Martín, his first grandson, is born.
1992 Amaral exhibited at the Miami International Art Exposition in Florida with Galería D’Museo, Caracas; Jim Amaral: New Bronzes at Shidoni Contemporary Gallery, Tesuque, NM; I Ibero-American Art Fair with Galería Alfred Wild, Caracas (group exhibition); Barro de América [American Clay] at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Caracas (group exhibition); and Dedicada a Obregón [To Obregón] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition).
1993 Amaral exhibited at Peyton Wright Gallery, Santa Fe, NM (group exhibition); Maestros sobre papel [Masters on Paper] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition); Art Miami ’93, Miami International Art Exposition; Esculturas [Sculptures] at Galería Alfred Wild, Bogotá. According to a press review, “The men who inspire Jim Amaral’s sculpture do not live in the present. They are mutant beings, halfway between the inanimate and the purely spiritual.”
Amaral exhibited at the II Ibero-American Art Fair, Caracas; Colombian Sculpture at the Colombian Center, New York (group exhibition); Galería Quintero, Barranquilla; Elite Fine Arts Miami (with Olga de Amaral); Galería Der Brucke, Buenos Aires; and Salón Cultural Avianca, Barranquilla (with Olga de Amaral).
1994 Amaral exhibited at Shidoni Contemporary Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Peyton Wright Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; 25th Anniversary at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá (group exhibition); III Ibero-American Art Fair, Caracas in collaboration with Galería Acquavella, Caracas; Latin American Artists at the Lowe Art Museum, Miami (group exhibition); Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, Cali (group exhibition); and Juguetes [Toys] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition).
1995 Amaral exhibited Apariciones [Apparitions] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá:
Amaral uses the mythological element to make a demonstration by analogy. The classic labyrinth of the minotaur, the power of the centaur, the fire of the entwined serpents, a symbol associated with healing powers, provide images that represent the road to metamorphosis, where man transcends his animal nature to open his soul to the cosmos, transforming his animal power into the celestial force of the gods of old.
The poet William Ospina wrote about the exhibition:
We approach Amaral’s sculptures to find out what they are. We pity their human figures agitated by the yearning to decipher their own meaning. We are disturbed by these naive and mythical beasts, and only later do we understand that we have seen a reflection of our own destiny.
Amaral exhibited at the Miami International Art Exposition, Art Miami ’95 in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá; Expoarte 1995, IV International Contemporary Art Fair, Guadalajara in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá; XXII International Contemporary Art Fair, Paris in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá; and the IV Ibero-American Art Fair, Caracas in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá.
1996 Amaral exhibited at Peyton Wright Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.
The group of sculptures Women with Wheels, composed of three bronze pieces, was commissioned and installed at the entrance of a building in Bogotá’s financial district.
Amaral exhibited Obra reciente [Recent Work] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá. Juan Carlos Moyano wrote in the exhibition catalog:
Amaral has forged a disturbing work, baked in time, free from fashions, conceived with the rigor of the craft and the passion of the alchemist who plays and experiments with the aesthetic matter. […] The artist’s world is complex and refined when it decides to reveal itself: his dreads emerge, a simple creative breath, the codes of a technically perfect aesthetic, and configurations that refer to intricacies of the psyche. There is something remote lurking in Amaral’s designs, from an era without time.
He also exhibited at the V Ibero-American Art Fair in Caracas in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá; Mirarte, Latin American International Art Fair, Bogotá in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá; Objetos creativos [Creative Objects] at the Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, Cali (group exhibition); and Mixta. Arte Contemporáneo Nacional e Internacional [Mixed: National and International Contemporary Art] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition).
Amaral created seven lithographs for which Edoardo Sanguineti wrote an equal number of poems, published in a book entitled Minitarjetas [Minicards], printed in Bogotá by Ediciones Arte Dos Gráfico in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Culture.
At the invitation of Casa de Poesía Silva, Bogotá, the artist made Dead Poet 10: José Asunción Silva (FIG. 101), the tenth sculpture in the series Dead Poets (FIGS. 98–101, 251, 255, 271 y 351–352).
1997 Jim exhibited at Solidarte ’97, Fundación Francia Solidaridad en Colombia at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition) and at the VI Ibero-American Art Fair, Caracas in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá.
1998 Amaral exhibited Monólogos [Monologues] at Galería Uno, Caracas; Peyton Wright Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Galería El Museo, Bogotá; Art Miami ’98, Miami International Art Exposition in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá; and the VII Ibero-American Art Fair, Caracas in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá.
2000 Jim exhibited at Galería El Museo, Bogotá; Recent Work at Peyton Wright Gallery, Santa Fe, NM and at the San Francisco International Art Exposition in collaboration with Galería El Museo, Bogotá.
2001 Jim published the small format book entitled Boxed, in which he presented a series of fifteen small format bronze sculptures by the same name.
He participated in the following art fairs with the Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibitions): Art Palm Beach, Florida; Art Miami, Chicago International Art Exhibition, and Toronto Art Fair.
He exhibited in Homenaje a Nueva York [Tribute to New York], Galería La Cometa, Bogotá (group exhibition) and Shidoni Foundry Anniversary, Tesuque, NM (group exhibition).
The photographer Roberto Edwards invited Amaral to participate in the project Taller Experimental Cuerpos Pintados [Experimental Workshop: Painted Bodies] in Santiago de Chile. Jim chose to work with dwarfs. In the prologue of Cuerpos Pintados por Amaral [Painted Bodies by Amaral] Roberto Edwards wrote:
Amaral recreated a faithful representation of his own work on the bodies of the models. The small bodies acquired the characteristics of his bronze works. In the angels series, he conveyed a playful feeling that is more like his drawings and paintings. Across the board, Amaral achieved a unique symbiosis between his own artistic world and the project for the experimental workshop.
Lorenzo, his second grandson, is born.
2002 Jim exhibited No-Men at Peyton-Wright Gallery, Santa Fe, NM. In the exhibition catalog, Diego Amaral wrote:
In 1989, Amaral returned to bronze, as an exile to his homeland. Now, the objects are seeded with past experiences, becoming sculptures full of presence, abandoned and dissatisfied nomads in our technological era, aspiring to the heroic but trapped by wheels, pointed shoes, spheres and circles, and the paraphernalia of every human being. These sculptures are our meditations and our dusty anxieties embodied in polychrome bronzes. Here there are no shiny or polished surfaces but the surreal and complex texture of life itself, in an apocalyptic spiral towards oblivion that is always seeking more life. When we move away from one of these immobile witnesses, the jury assembles, the waves bless our feet, and somehow we reconcile ourselves with the profound beings that we are.
Amaral exhibited in Art Miami in collaboration with Galería Juan Ruiz, Caracas; XI Ibero-American Art Fair, Caracas in collaboration with the Galería Adolfo Pecchio, Caracas; Dibujos del cuerpo humano [Drawings of the Human Body] at Galería La Cometa, Bogotá (group exhibition); and Grandes maestros de Colombia [Great Masters of Colombia] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition).
2003 Amaral exhibited Arte Diners at the National Museum of Colombia, Bogotá (group exhibition); Grandes maestros colombianos [Great Colombian Masters] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition); Recordando a Leonel Góngora [Remembering Leonel Góngora] at Galería Café Libro, Bogotá (group exhibition); and Solidarte ‘03 at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition).
He exhibited Microcosmos at Galería Galena, Bogotá.
2004 The artist presented Jim Amaral. Trans/figuraciones 1960-2004 [Jim Amaral: Trans/figurations 1960-2004], a retrospective exhibition at the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Banco de la República, Bogotá; and Jim Amaral: Enigmas and Sofisma [Sophism] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá.
2007 The artist exhibited Medusas (FIGS. 83–85): Jim Amaral at Casa Amaral, Bogotá and Formas divergentes: una mirada a la escultura colombiana de entre siglos [Divergent Forms: An Overview of Colombian Sculpture Between Centuries] at Montealegre Galería de Arte, Bogotá (group exhibition). The curator Eduardo Serrano wrote about the exhibition:
The sculptural work of Amaral in which personal expression and artistic craft play a major role forms a sui generis mythology of hermetic meanings and exquisite suggestions, at times transcendental, at others fantastic, and on occasion perverse and loaded with humor. His figures exhibit spirals, caressing tentacles, faceless heads, premonitory masks, wings, wheels, and hinges, always providing an exquisite balance between sensuality and strength, between poetry and horror.
2008 Amaral exhibited Meridianos [Meridians] at Galería La Cometa, Bogotá. His erotic drawings accompanied by poetic texts appeared in the publication La esencia del deseo. Correspondencia [The Essence of Desire: Correspondence] by Ángel Beccassino at the Museo Arte Erótico Americano, Bogotá.
2009 Amaral exhibited Presencia [Presence] at CorpBanca Centro Cultural, Caracas (curated by Pedro Rendón Oropeza) and Esculturas: Jim Amaral [Sculptures: Jim Amaral] at Galería Club El Nogal, Bogotá.
2010 Jim exhibited Corpus eroticus (femenino/masculino) [Corpus eroticus (feminine/masculine)], at the Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá (group exhibition).
2011 The artist exhibited Jim Amaral: islas imaginarias [Jim Amaral: Imaginary Islands] at the Chamber of Commerce, Bogotá. Camilo Beltrán wrote in the newspaper El Tiempo:
The figures are close to each other but at the same time alone and anchored in their own unique center of the world, which they do not share with anyone. Each on their own imaginary island may wait for time to pass, to clear up, for everything to be better, for their minds to let them fly to unknown worlds. Although it appears that they are simply there, despite everything, in the same place: terribly alone.
Edward Shaw included Jim Amaral in the book Pintura contemporánea latinoamericana [Contemporary Latin American Painting] (Santiago de Chile, 2011) as one of eight representatives of Colombian painting:
What distinguishes Amaral´s painting is the atmosphere: he envelops us in climates dense but not dramatic, dark but not black. He does not invite us to share the experience: he is not looking for complicity. The artist makes his plans without taking the audience into account. We may enjoy the array of tonalities, the mastery evident in his brushstrokes, and celebrate our discovery of a moon in a gloomy landscape where entry is prohibited (p. 216).
2012 Jim exhibited La esmeralda en el arte [The Emerald in Art] at Fundación Museo Internacional de la Esmeralda, Bogotá (group exhibition); Los que dibujan [Those Who Draw] at Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas y Ambientales, Bogotá (group exhibition); Ritual de títeres: homenaje a Gonzalo Márquez Cristo [Puppet Ritual: Tribute to Gonzalo Márquez Cristo] at Galería La Escalera, Bogotá (group exhibition); El juego de la interpretación. Homenaje a clásicos del erotismo [The Game of Interpretation: Tribute to Classics of Eroticism] at Galería Alonso Arte, Bogotá (group exhibition); and Grandes maestros [Great Masters] at Galería El Museo, Bogotá (group exhibition). Grandes maestros was discussed in the newspaper El Tiempo:
The name of the exhibition captures the gallery’s desire to rescue, and in some cases to revive, these outstanding artists who have been, in one way or another, set aside because new artists generate expectations and novelty in critics, audiences, and collectors. Ultimately though, young creators must not forget these masters, because they have been nourished by them and received their influences. In addition, this selection of works allows the visitor to discover how Colombian art in the twentieth century expands in various directions, freely combining trends, tastes, and inclinations, so that, when walking through the gallery’s halls, the creative diversity will be felt.
2012- 2013 Amaral participated in the group exhibition Inmigrantes: artistas, arquitectos, fotógrafos, críticos y galeristas en el arte colombiano, 1930-1970 [Immigrants: Artists, Architects, Photographers, Critics, and Gallerists in Colombian Art, 1930-1970] organized by Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño at the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Bogotá. One of the curators, John Castles, wrote in the exhibition catalog about Jim’s work:
His mastery of sculpture and evocative, erotic drawings have granted him an irreplaceable spot in the country’s contemporary visual art scene. His voluminous, faceless sculptures sail between a melancholic, ancestral past and purely spontaneous, futuristic dreams, widening his search for identity, freedom, and transcendence of the human condition.
2013 Jim published a calendar titled Jim Amaral: Murky Waters (FIG. 313), which brought together a series of fourteen drawings of the same name. Artwork by Amaral for the eighth edition of the Cartagena International Music Festival, produced by the Salvi Foundation, was launched at Club El Nogal, Bogotá.
2014 Jim participated in Paper Trail at the Latin American Masters Gallery, Los Angeles (group exhibition); La oreja pasiva y otras fábulas [The Passive Ear and Other Fables] at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Cartagena (for the eighth edition of the Cartagena International Music Festival). In a text published by Diners Magazine, the president of the Salvi Foundation Julia Salvi commented:
For this version of the festival, Jim Amaral has done an extraordinary job. That is why we wanted to show only his work, which will be exhibited during the festival at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Cartagena. Amaral’s violin evokes fantastic fables and that is precisely the motif of the eighth version of the festival.
His series Mourning Fruits and Invisible Flowers were chosen to illustrate Mapa del desalojo. Poemas escogidos [Eviction Map: Chosen Poems], a compilation of poetry by the Venezuelan poet Armando Rojas Guardia (Común Presencia Editores, Bogotá).
2015 Amaral exhibited Tiempos del Nunca [Never Times] at Galería La Cometa, Bogotá. Iván Beltrán Castillo wrote in the exhibition catalogue:
The geographies today on display—come to widen the catalog of an immensely rich planet—are futile, sodden with memories, sometimes lugubrious, full of cosmic mystery, gargantuan, enduring, perhaps fatal and only conceivable in the breast of a civilization that was born anguished and will die with that same feeling, one that has always been intoxicated in the face of its inevitable disappearance.
Ana María Escallón commented in the electronic magazine Las 2 Orillas:
Jim Amaral presents his sculptures in never-ever time. A sound installation of beings that do not want to be represented as angels because these bronzes have souls of concrete. It is a work in which metaphysics has order, where textures matter to the content, where ancestral chariots carry the world of Pythagoras’ geometry, where the human figure is subject to the cynicism of being a shadow or an infernal machine (FIG. 279).
2016 Jim exhibited Estados presentes [Present States] along with Olga de Amaral at CasaCano, Bogotá. The online magazine El Nuevo Siglo published a review:
Jim Amaral’s complex and original universe is reflected in the more than thirty sculptures and eight drawings that comprise this exhibition. Demystifying both human structures and nature, the artist dislocates emotions, ensnaring them in the cubes and spheres that make up the works. These pieces make us question the vigor and strength of the body as an entity, along with our constant and banal identification with its desires and fears as if they were secrets.
Amaral exhibited Chariots of Humankind at Galerie Agnès Monplaisir, Paris. Sarah Cascone wrote on artnet.com:
The artist’s celestial visions suggest a certain degree of otherworldliness, as if these structures originate from another time and place. His recurring use of the sphere, for instance, suggests lifeless planets in some far-off region of our universe.
2017 Exhibits in the Museum of Modern Art, Bogotá, Jim Amaral: recuerdos del futuro [Jim Amaral: Memories of the Future]; curator, Eduardo Serrano; museography, Laura Aparicio; assistant curator, Valentina Amaral. The artist publishes the monographic and retrospective book Jim Amaral: Known Worlds.