San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Exhibit Seeks to Make All of San José a Gallery

Named after a pejorative colonial reference to Central America, “Estrecho Dudoso” (“Doubtful Straight”) is a 70-artist show set to invade San José December through February, Mayor Johnny Araya and the nonprofit TEOR/éTica announced recently.

When Costa Rican campesinos drove U.S. filibuster William Walker out of the country 150 years ago, few would have imagined that one result would be a 2006 artistic commemoration in San José – such is the case with this celebration of visual arts to be held in eight museums and several public plazas.

“Estrecho Dudoso” is also the closing event of San José’s festivities as the “2006 Latin American Culture Capital.”

“This will make the whole city a gallery,” said Andrés Fernández, a Costa Rican artist who’ll show his work on the historical development of the capital’s taverns.

TEOR/éTica, a San José “center for the dissemination of contemporary regional art,” calls “Estrecho Dudoso” the “most significant international visual art event ever held in the region.”

To a conference of 50 journalists, artists and sponsors,Mayor Araya said he hopes the event will be a step toward a “more inclusive” San José.

“Culture is like the soul of the city,” he said. Araya took the opportunity to call walled-in western suburbs “threats to social inclusion,” referring to a “Miami syndrome” where “those who have security between walls will face danger outside.” He said the capital is growing less socially and economically diverse, and his strategy to reverse it is to improve public spaces and public cultural offerings.

The estrecho dudoso, the “doubtful straight” through Central America sought by Spanish explorers en route to the Spice Islands, is in these exhibits a “doubtful” manifestation of today’s “global processes that are accompanied by an increase of physical and symbolic limits,” according to TEOR/éTica.

The event, which was set to open yesterday, is divided into six main exhibits, four of which will touch on uneasy realities of modern and historic society – “Límites” (“Limits”), “Noticias del Filibustero” (“News of the Filibuster”), “Rutas Intangibles” (“Intangible Routes”) and “Tráficos” (“Movements”).

The other two shows are tributes to modern Latin American art through the work of Guatemalan Margarita Azurdia (1931-1998) and Chilean Juan Downey (1940-1993).

Azurdia is the “precursor” of modern art in Central America, said exhibit curator Virginia Pérez-Ratton. Her paintings reveal “geometric form” and “organic abstraction” inspired by Guatemalan textiles, according to TEOR/éTica.

The art center called Downey, who studied in New York and was friends with Andy Warhol and John Lennon, “one of the pioneers of video art.” The exhibit features 15 of his films, along with paintings and etchings.

“Estrecho Dudoso” will show the work of artists from Afghanistan, Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, England, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Spain, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Exhibits will be open by tomorrow at most of the major San José museums. For more information, contact TEOR/éTica at 233-4881.


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