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Art In Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been a bit slower than some countries to develop a name for itself as a mecca for the arts, a history of social tension and conservatism having prevented artists from creating any remarkably creative works. It wasn't until the 1920s that a distinctive Costa Rican style of painting emerged, led by artist Teodorico Quiros and his contemporaries. Referred to as the ¬®Landscape¬®movement, the works of these artists tended to feature Costa Rica¬īs villages, mountains and jungles in vibrant, stylized forms.

More experimental artwork debuted in the 50s, 60s and 70s, its creators looking down on the simple landscapes of the prior generation, thinking them uncreative and dull. Isidro Con Wong, from Puntarenas but of Mongolian descent, is one of the most famous modern Costa Rican artists. He has paintings hanging in museums and galleries all over the U.S and Europe, and is known for transforming the countrysides of Costa Rica into surreal, brightly-colored dreamscapes. Leonel González, from Puerto Limón, is another artist who takes the paisajes of his country and interprets them creatively on canvas. His images of the Costa Rican Caribbean show sparse black outlines of people, animals and buildings against blazing colors.

Costa Rica is home to several world renown sculptors and multi-media artists as well. Rolando Castell√≥n, who was a director of the New York Museum of Modern Art for a time before returning to his home in the bohemian city of Escaz√ļ, depicts Costa Rican indigenous life as 3-D art. His studio gallery in Zapote, called Moyo Coyatzin for an indigenous God of creativity, is full of complex, intriguing works made up of things like newspaper and dried flowers. Another famous artist hailing from Escaz√ļ is Katya de Luisa, whose photo collages tell complex stories of Costa Rican life.

The influx of tourism in Costa Rica in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries also caused an increase in the quality of crafts and other artisan work. Much of it shows surprising creativity for what is essentially intended to be souvenirs. While you can find plenty of run-of-the-mill, gaudily painted wooden figurines and pots all over the country, some crafts are truly works of art. The village of Sarchí in particular is known for its artisans, and is a great place not only to buy some high-quality work but also to watch craftsmen create it. Perhaps Sarchí's most famous craft is the carreta (oxcart), exquisitely painted with intricate rainbows of geometric designs. The wooden carts come in all sizes, so you can easily find one that will fit in your suitcase. Other wood work, such as kitchenware and furniture, is also painted with the village's distinctive designs.

Although a history of Costa Rican art won't be nearly as lengthy as one for a country like France or Italy, Costa Rica's handful of famous names have made a mark for themselves by creating work as vibrant and beautiful as their homeland. Anyone lucky enough to own or see their paintings, sculptures and crafts will undoubtedly recognize them as reflections of a colorful, distinctive country and culture.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Costa Rica: Culture, Literature, Gay Manuel Antonio and Museums.

21 Oct 2010

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