I recently bought a copy of "Los Arcanos Mayores" by the Columbian artist Catalina Cabrera. She produced this suite of 22 etching/aquatints during a one year Artist Residency in Caracas, Venezuela, October 1999 through October 2000. As far as I can tell, the prints were exhibited at the Museo de la Estampa y del Diseño Carlos Cruz-Diez in Caracas, Venezuela, and again at the Biblioteca Pública Piloto para América Latina, Medellín, Columbia. The edition of 75 copies was produced at the studio of Alfonso Álvarez in Bogotá.
A clamshell box with embossed titles houses the portfolio of original prints. The 3 3/4" square images are printed on 5 1/2 x 9 3/4" sheets of heavyweight Fabriano rag paper.
This is a beautifully executed artist's view of the tarot as archetypal imagery. The artist, Catalina Cabrera, has created a highly atmospheric work that clearly has roots in the tradition of the Latin American Surrealists, yet exhibits a thoroughly contemporary sense of design.
Each image is exquisitely composed and rendered in delicately etched line and subtle texture. The numbers and titles are integrated into the images, and at times appear as raised line work on a black or dark grey field. The technical quality is fabulous.
The artist creates an uncrowded, airy world of wide open spaces. The square format enhances the viewer's sense of order and contributes to the overall clarity of the scene. The figures who populate this world are rendered as simple forms, often with minimal features, or even further distilled down to shadowy silhouettes, thus enhancing their archetypal quality.
As one runs through the images, graphic relationships emerge as she quotes visual passages between cards. The Empress and Emperor are linked by their large birds. The Sun and Moon echo in their circles. In several cards, rectangular "windows" break the picture plane, and reveal an additional view into another place, with some relevant idea that contributes to the overall message.
This deck is clearly created directly in a visual language. It is not a translation of a written text, or a set of illustrations of a verbal description. This is direct imagery, as one would find in a painting. While I speak English, and the artist speaks Spanish, here I am able to understand her perfectly. No text is necessary.
This is an unapologetic rave, for a must-have deck.
If anyone is interested in buying a copy, PM me and I will put you in touch with the artist's rep.