A Collective Offering from Costa Rica at the Venice Biennale

Photo of Helen Brady
28 January 2016

A quartet of artists is to represent the country of Costa Rica at this year’s 55th Venice Biennale event. Priscilla Monge, Esteban Piedra, Rafael Ottón Solís and Cinthya Soto will display their exhibition Democracy & Dreams in the national pavilion for the Central American country. The four artists will be assisted by the direction of curator Francisco Córdoba.

Watch the short film entitled Lecciones de maquillaje (Make-up Lessons) by Priscilla Monge.

For Priscilla Monge, this is not her first time exhibiting at the Venice Biennale. The artist also contributed to the international art exhibition at the 49th event in 2001. Born in 1968, Monge lives and works in the capital San José, Costa Rica. Monge is an artist who has experimented within various media throughout her career. Her academic training began in the mid-1980s at the University of Costa Rica. It was during this period that she initially devoted herself to painting and her concept of sexual identity referenced in sports activity germinated. Following on from this period after a four-year settlement in Belgium, Monge explored the third dimension through a re-signification of disparate objects such as boxing helmets and music boxes. An example of this was the exhibition entitled ‘Cállese y cante’ (‘Shut up and sing’) which was presented at the 6th Havana biennial in 1997. Monge’s work then developed into the field of video art, such as the short film entitled ‘Lecciones de maquillaje’ (Make-up Lessons). In this film a model is sat allowing the artist to do work on her face, but when the camera focuses, the viewer realizes in horror that it actually appears to be covered in bruises, as if she has had a terrible beating. Since 2000, her primary means of expression has been through the medium of photography. In the exhibition ‘Face to Face’ Monge’s works are on display with other artists of stature such as Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol. Monge’s characteristic aesthetic is the exploitation of duality and paradox and she is undoubtedly an exciting choice for the Costa Rican Pavilion.

Esteban Piedra | Courtesy of Galeria Luisa Strina

Esteban Piedra is an artist and professor at the University of Costa Rica. Piedra studied architecture but not fine arts, and his works examine the relationship between the vacuums of space as an environment in which human beings live. Some critics have described him as an artist who creates as an architect would. Piedra remarks that the appropriation of space or ‘the structure as condition’ has always been a prevalent issue for him as a creative. One of Piedra’s most recent exhibitions was held at Galeria Luisa Strina in São Paulo, Brazil between November and December in 2011. This show displayed a series of silk printing, engravings on metal, photographs and installation. The goal was analyzing archaeological, architectural and topographical research through a relationship with the mathematical analysis of the space. Piedra believes that art and culture, especially the visual arts is the ‘last space of freedom’ which specifically convey the ‘social reality in which we live, to propose new models of thought.’

Rafael Ottón Solís, sculpture, bread, plinth | © Francesco Pistilli

Rafael Ottón Solís has participated in numerous exhibitions both individually and collectively since 1976. Solís has achieved much recognition with numerous awards including the National Award Achilles J. Painting Echeverria twice, Anchor Award in Fine Arts also twice, and the Press Award in the III International Painting Biennial in Cuenca, Ecuador. One of his latest exhibitions included installations, silk screens and paintings that were on display through February, 2011 at the Contemporary Art and Design Museum in San José, Costa Rica. Entitled ‘Umbral de Fuego’ (‘Threshold of Fire’) it included a significant percentage of the creative work of Solís conducted between the years of 1978 and 2010. A central theme to his works is the persistent consciousness of armed conflicts within the world and the role of the Catholic Church in Central American countries. In ‘Umbral de Fuego’ an installation representing sacramental bread was one of the fifteen pieces included in the exhibition by the award-winning artist. The legacy and presence of Christian and pre-Columbian heritage along with various oriental conceptions are compared with the social, historical and political contexts of the time.

Cinthya Soto | Courtesy of Salt Fine Art

Born in Alajuela, Costa Rica in 1969. Cinthya Soto is educated in many areas of artistic academia including architecture, the visual arts, film and video. Her first individual exhibition in 2002 at the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo won her the Aquileo J. Echeverría National Award of Fine Arts. The work of Soto consistently deconstructs the medium of photography. However, at first glance, Cinthya’s works may not appear as photography. Her series ‘Pictography’ is made of photographs of painted murals; capturing both illustration and reality at the same time. She pushes the medium forward by beautifully blurring the lines between painting and photography presenting innovative works that explores the condition of multiplicity, variability and a spectrum of perspectives. Her photographs in ‘Landscape (Re) Found: In Search Of Paradise Lost’ were included in the contemporary biennial photography exhibition ‘Photoquai 2011’. For her project, Soto carried out trips to the northwest, north and south of Argentina, from Iguazu to Patagonia. Engaging in a nomadic existence, the artist moved between different spiritual and physical locations in an attempt to propose a different view of the postcard cliché. Utilizing a duality of images, she used two medium format cameras; one seen in the image defining the landscape itself whilst the other records the actual scene. Soto merges traditional distinctions to create an entire experience for the viewer with her photographic installations.

Costa Rica Team:

Artists: Priscilla Monge, Esteban Piedra, Rafael Ottón Solís, Cinthya Soto
Commissioner: Francesco EliseiCurator: Francisco Córdoba, Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo (Fiorella Resenterra)
Venue: Ca’ Bonvicini, Santa Croce

About The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Project:

The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale will take place from 1 June – 24 November. The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Series is an article series leading up to the start of the exhibition. With 88 countries participating in this year’s Biennale — 10 of them for the first time — and 150 artists from 37 countries, our coverage over the next couple of months will highlight a selection of the National Pavilions that will be participating in the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale. Watch the Biennale page on our site or The Culture Trip’s Facebook page for our daily Biennale articles and updates.
By Helen Brady

The Culture Trip showcases the best of art, culture and travel for every country in the world. Have a look at our Costa Rica or Central America sections to find out more or become involved.

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