ARTS AND CULTURE |
In recent years, however, artists across the spectrum have found a new confidence and are shaking off rigid social norms, exciting for a country long dismissed as a cultural backwater. The performing arts are flourishing, and the National Symphony Orchestra sets a high standard for other musical troupes to follow. Ticos now speak proudly of their "cultural revolution."The newsophistication in culture is amply demonstrated by the introduction of an International Art Festival in 1992, an annual event that has won a place among the arts festivals of the continent. The festival has brought inspiration and new ideas while raising the quality of local groups by allowing them to measure themselves against international talent.ARTBy the late 1950s, many local artists lookeddown on the work of the prior generation as the art of casitas (little houses) and were indulging in more abstract styles. The current batch of young artists have broadened their expressive visions and are now gaining increasing international recognition for their eclectic works.Isidro Con Wong, from Puntarenas but of Mongolian descent, is known for a style redolent of magic realism and has worksin permanent collections in several U.S. and French museums. Once a poor farmer, he started painting with his fingers and achiote, a red paste made from a seed. "Children, drunk bohemians, or the mentally regressed--in other words the innocent chosen by God--are those who understand my works," he says. His paintings sell for about $35,000 each.In Puerto Limón, Leonel González paints images of theCaribbean port with figures reduced to thick black silhouettes against backgrounds of splendid colors. The most irreverent of contemporary artists is perhaps Roberto Lizano, who collides Delacroix with Picasso and likes to train his eye on the pomposity of ecclesiastics.Alajuelan artist Gwen Barry is acclaimed for her "Movable Murals"--painted screens populated by characters from Shakespeare andthe Renaissance. Rafa Fernández is heavily influenced by his many years in Spain, defined as "magic realism, where the beauty and grandness of women is explored with a sense of intimacy and suggestion." His ladies often appear in quasi-Victorian guise wearing floral hats. And Rolando Castellón, who won acclaim in the U.S. and was a director of the New York Museum of Modern Art before returning toCosta Rica in 1993, translates elements of indigenous life into 3-D art. His studio gallery in Zapote, Moyo Coyatzin, is named for the indigenous deity of creativity. And you can't travel far in Costa Rica these days without seeing examples of the works of another Escazú artist, Katya de Luisa, whose stunning photo collages are complex allegories. Katya initiated "Encounters With Art," acollaborative effort in which artists from different media contribute to a single work. Aldo Canale works with stained glass, producing what Chakris Kussalanant calls "a tendency for the organic-- large glasses full of sensuous lines and earthy colors." And a Cuban aesthetic finds its way into the works of Limonese artist Edgar León, who was influenced by travels in Cuba and Mexico.The Ministry of Culturesponsors art lessons and exhibits on Sunday in city parks. University art galleries, the Museo de Arte Costarricense, and many smaller galleries scattered throughout San José exhibit works of all kinds.CRAFTSMany of the best crafts in Costa Rica come from Sarchí. Visitors are welcome to enter the fábricas de carretas and watch the families and master artists at work producing exquisitely contouredbowls, serving dishes, and--most notably--carretas (oxcarts), for which the village is now famous worldwide. Although an occasional full-size oxcart is still made, today most of the carretas made in Sarchí are folding miniature trolleys--like little hot-dog stands--that serve as liquor bars or indoor tables, and half-size carts used as garden ornaments or simply to accent a corner of a home. The...
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