Landscapes of Costa Rica: The Vision of Rojas-Alfaro, Vidales and Villalobos
|Source: The World Bank, Art Program Web Page|
|Landscape painting has
played an important part in the development of Costa Rican art. As in
other countries in Latin America, landscapes came to be symbols of
In Costa Rica, landscape painting thrived and became established in the first half of the twentieth century, with adobe houses saved from oblivion as nostalgic metaphors of a traditional society yielding to modernization.
For decades, a mainly watercolor landscape school, favored by a large number of painters and fostered by the Escuela de Bellas Artes, dominated Costa Rican art. In the past 20 years, a new generation of artists has again turned its attention to landscapes, although from a different perspective. These new painters are no longer keen to capture the topography or the luminous beauty of a terrain. They look at the landscape from a conceptual and symbolic angle, in which natural shapes express concerns, awareness, ideas and personal feelings rooted in approaches shaped by science, social issues, or an individual poetic style.
Rojas creates a harmonious and balanced world, exploring the deep ties and all-encompassing unity of the elements. In his paintings, trees and fish, rain and sunlight, night and day commingle, their simultaneity conveying the interaction and interdependence of all living things. The result is an imaginary visual universe, a kind of chromatic cosmos in which balance and symmetry predominate, symbolizing order in life. The colors in this landscape are not descriptive; the painter’s intention is not to narrate a scene or describe a panorama. The shapes emerge from a synthesis that seeks to express the primeval quintessence of the world around us. Discourse, color, line, texture, composition, and spatial relationships combine to convey the harmonious ideal of a beautifully woven cosmos.
Marité Vidales's early landscape paintings depict nature as an intense fantasy-filled scene bursting with energy and flooding the canvas with a wild chromatic strength reminiscent of Fauvism. Her current landscapes are filled with the same vibrant colors and bright, luminous paints, but accompanied now by a dream-like mysteriousness that lends a magic air to the images she paints. Some of these canvases have areas or geometric spaces separating figures from the rest of the landscape, generating at times a visual tension matching that between the colossal, earthly power of the volcano -- symbolizing the energy of mother nature -- and the areas depicting leaves of banana trees grown by men.
The separation of the figures into zones and the structural-hierarchical contrasts built into the spatial design prompts a kind of conflict between the metaphoric function of segmented space and the seductive wealth of color casting a magic, mysterious spell. This tension, seductiveness, and conceptual dualism in Vidales's paintings are hallmarks of truly romantic landscapes. In her paintings the shapes of the countryside also convey the artist's insights into the tensions between nature and culture and express her position or personal appreciation of a core component of contemporary life.
The landscape paintings of Alejandro Villalobos bathe in the matchless, myriad greens of the tropical forests. They dazzle with sensations of light forming a kind of luminous hymn to nature. The paths and glens, waterfalls and pools, leafy canopies of a thousand shades of green and gold harbor a poetic vision that hints at a personal, emotional relationship, in which the intensity of living things is a metaphor for hidden moods, emotions, and states of mind. The colors and Villalobos's use of both spots and brushstrokes in these landscapes guide us away from description and, combined with synthetic abstraction from objects, unravel the inner meaning of his landscapes.
Underlying the synthesis of color and light, we glimpse a remarkable sensitivity, a suggestion of how human beings and their environment could commingle, that acts like balm to the soul. The painter's feeling for seasons, the cycles of constant rebirth, the contrast between dryness and humidity, seems to mirror an understanding of similar cycles in the lives of men.
Observe the landscapes painted by Villalobos and you will experience astonishment, quietude, contemplation, and peace. Some of them, especially those depicting peaks capped by clouds, come close to capturing the drama inherent in human efforts to express the sublime.
Like those of Vidales and Rojas, the landscapes of Alejandro Villalobos are intellectual constructs, designed to convey thoughts and emotions stirred by the dialogue between nature and humankind. Rojas evokes a kind of utopia imbued with order and balance, while Vidales celebrates the powerfulness of the earth and explores the aesthetic possibilities of translating nature into paint. Villalobos creates a lyrical sphere, which, by extolling experience of nature, revives the spiritual potential in individual human beings and puts them in touch with the vibrant essence of life.
Taken together, these landscapes illustrate the multiplicity of ways in which different artistic sensitivities use color, space, texture, and form to commune with nature and convey to us the thoughts and feelings inspired by their personal experience of Mother Earth.
The exhibition is on view through August 2004 at H Building Gallery, 600 19th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20433
Ancestral VI, 2004
Ancestral VII, 2004
Arribo II / Arrival II,
Febrero en la llanura /
Februry in the Plain, 2004
Febrero en el Pacífico/
February in the Pacific, 2004
Acrylic and mixed media on canvas
121 x 81 cms.
Tarde de Lluvia VII /
Afternoon of Rain VII, 2004
Tarde de Lluvia /
Afternoon of Rain, 2004
Vuelo XVI / Fly XVI
Aguacero, niebla y árbol
seco del Zurquí / Rainfall, fog and dry tree of Zurquí, 2002
Estación lluviosa /
Rainy Season, 2004
Estación seca /
Filigranas verdes /
Green vines, 2002
Luz Intrusa / Intrusive
Manglar II / Man grove
Soñar ser pescador /
Dreming to be a fisherman, 2002
Tres caídas de agua /
Three waterfalls, 2004
Brisa / Breeze, 2002
Brisa Nocturna / Night
Calma / Calm, 2003
Entre las Nubes /
Between the Clouds, 2004
Mediodía / Noon 2003
Volcán Nocturno I /
Night Volcano I, 2002