Aó: Textile Episodes in the Visual Arts in Paraguay brings together sixteen works by ten artists closely connected to Paraguay and its textile practices: Marcos Benítez, Félix Cardozo, Claudia Casarino, Feliciano Centurión, Arnaldo Cristaldo, Ricardo Migliorisi, Mónica Millán, Osvaldo Salerno, Joaquín Sánchez, and Karina Yaluk. Some of these objects and installations produced from 1993 to 2022 make use of traditional fabrics (ñandutí or Paraguayan lace, aó po’í, poyví, and encaje yú, all of them rooted in the precolonial or colonial era) to explore local questions in the present time. Others engage in novel forms of needlework, printing, or assemblage to stitch together stories about women, work, and the environment, about the language that inhabits us and its translations. Aó re-signifies a poetics of the textile that binds together the shared stories of daily life.
“The history of Paraguay has always been crossed by fabric. Aó is the word in Guarani that names all its possibilities: clothing, decoration, coat... In each fabric, a form of the alphabet is put into play. The hands link, warp and plot; they record thread by thread their own stories. Paraguayan popular fabrics tell stories of the people who make them (mostly women) and use them in the domestic or work environment”, says curator Lia Colombino, director of the Museo de Arte Indígena, Museo del Barro, Paraguay.
All facets of Paraguayan history are stitched together in that country’s textiles. The Guaraní word aó refers to all the possible functions of fabric (clothing, adornment, blanket, and many others). At play in each piece of fabric is a sort of alphabet. Hands interweave, act as warp and weft, and register—one thread after another—their own histories. Textiles handwoven in Paraguay tell the stories of the people (usually women) who make them and use them in their home or work lives. When, fascinated by the artisanal nature of the textile tradition, contemporary art looks to that tradition’s domesticity, it focuses on only some of its elements. Textiles’ stories change when told from the place of contemporary art: traditional fabrics create new discourses in works whose aesthetic codes and procedures are, at least at first, unknown to that tradition.
Curator: Lía Colombino. Images: Ricardo Migliorisi. El gran manto, 2018; Claudia Casarino. Apyte Ao, 2011.