In the middle of San José is a rectangular platform and on it stands a large group of statues representing the people of Costa Rica. Who is the great sculptor of that masterpiece? To my mind, it is perhaps the best public sculpture of the 20th century. It has the silent dignity, noble simplicity and a certain insistence of the people possessing awesome strength.
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Costa Rican artist Fernando Calvo made the set of bronze statues entitled “Presentes.” A simple translation is “The People Present,” but as in English, present also means the current moment of time, and can be used to mean a gift. Calvo finished the work in 1982, just three years after studying Visual Art at the University of Costa Rica for five years, and studying polychrome sculpture in Spain for six months.
The statues are located in front of the Central Bank building in downtown San José, a half block north of the pedestrianonly section of Avenida Central, and a couple blocks east of the Central Market. The people featured are Costa Rican campesinos from years gone by, everyday people.
“They are campesinos of Costa Rica. They say, ‘Here I am. I’m not moving from here. I’m not leaving. Whatever happens, happens.’ And I really like that they are in a public place, that people can see themselves reflected in the sculptures,” Calvo told The Tico Times.
Calvo, 54, said he created the sculpture because he felt that Costa Rica needed a monument representing its people, its pueblo. It was kept in his storage until the Banco Central decided to purchase it around 1985, Calvo said, for ¢3 million (approximately $59,000 in 1985).
Born in Heredia, and currently living in San Isidro de Heredia, a mountain town between Heredia and the
, Calvo is still creating art based on the people he sees around him. He likes to work with multiple mediums, including drawing, painting with oils, lithography, wood-block printing and sculpting. He is focusing on people, adults and kids, who live in the street.
“I don’t just see poverty. It’s more like I see the necessities of people. What people feel, like tenderness, happiness, abandonment.
Things that everybody feels, but that people in the street transmit through their eyes, their gestures,” Calvo said.
More of Calvo’s work can be seen in western San José at the Costa Rican Art Museum in La Sabana Park, and in eastern San José at the StateUniversity at a Distance (UNED) in Sabanilla. His work also can be seen at the University for Peace, near Ciudad Colón, and at the JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport west of San José in Alajuela.