On June 12, 2014, nine ARLIS/NY members and guests gathered at the Bard Graduate Center (BGC) for an illuminating tour of Waterweavers: The River in Contemporary Colombian Visual and Material Culture. Following a welcome by BGC’s Chief Librarian Heather Topcik the group toured this engaging exhibition with gallery educator Tracy Grosner. She introduced Waterweavers by explaining that the curator, José Roco, had selected works that explore the confluence—metaphorically and literally—of the image of the river with the act of weaving.  Colombia is a country in which waterways have historically been the only means of transportation and communication between communities; weaving is a traditional craft technique that continues to be central to Colombian artists, designers and craftsmen. Throughout the Waterweavers exhibition the river was used as a conceptual device to explore the intersections of design, craft, and art in Colombian culture.  

Works in the exhibition that were of particular interest to the ARLIS/NY group included Olga de Amaral’s dramatic fiber pieces, David Consuegra’s indigenously-inspired graphic work, Alberto Barayas’ poignant projects Hebario de plantas artificiales (Herbarium of Artificial Plants) and Proyecto del árbol de caucho (Rubber Tree Project), and Jorge Lizarazo’s eye-catching bead-clad canoe. Equally engaging were Susana Mejía’s paper and fiber exploration Color Amazonia, Barayas’ disturbing video Rio, and Monika Bravo’s floor-to-ceiling digital video Weaving Time. The immersive environments on the gallery’s upper floors were surrounded and complemented by craft-inspired pieces of a more domestic nature: colorful Corocora stools made with a traditional spiral-basket-weaving technique, massive chairs constructed of bamboo, and hanging lamps woven from recycled plastic bottles. 

A few members extended the evening’s tour with a quick visit to BGC’s small Focus Gallery where a related exhibition, Carrying Coca: 1,500 Years of Andean Chuspas, featured items from the American Museum of Natural History textile collection.   

Following the Waterweavers tour the group migrated down West 86th Street to the BGC Library for a festive reception on the top floor overlooking the Upper West Side. In addition to informal socializing, the group enjoyed seeing and handling the wonderful collection of contemporary Colombian artists’ books, which the Library recently purchased to complement the Waterweavers exhibition.

Janis Ekdahl, Acquisitions Librarian, Bard Graduate Center Library