San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Exhibit Treats Urban Space with Capital ‘U’

An exhibit by two Tico urbanites in San José’s historic Barrio Amón neighborhood makes no attempt to play to the green gallery for which Costa Rica is famous. Instead, artists Sebastián Mello and Luciano Goizueta have chosen the concrete jungle as their landscape of choice.
“I’ve always lived in the city and I’ve noticed that the city (here) is a place nobody pays attention to. If they want to do something they like, they get away from the city, going to the mountains or the beach,” noted Goizueta, 25. “I wanted to salvage the attractiveness of the city. I’m speaking aesthetically, beyond nightlife.”
Both Goizueta and Mello, 29, splash lively color into the urban landscape in their joint exhibit, “Contextos Urbanos” (“Urban Contexts”), on display through March 30 at Galería Amón.
“I’ve always liked working with vivid colors,” said Mello, who makes silkscreen prints out of photographed images of such scenes as feet beating a crowded pavement in New York’s Chinatown. “Cities can get really gray, but then suddenly you can find lots of colors in certain parts.”
Mello prints the scenes over plastic buffing compound, “an industrial material – like working with materials from the city,” he said.
Goizueta also tends toward the louder reaches of the color wheel, though he uses acrylic paint on canvas. He also draws elements that represent Costa Rica’s betterknown natural side, such as shellfish and plant life, and crams them into the urban scene, sometimes creating a rather poignant traffic jam.
“I was rescuing the illustrative aesthetic of children’s schoolbooks,” Goizueta said.
“The mushrooms, shellfish and other creatures … also put (the work) within a natural framework that Costa Rican art has tended to follow, because of tourism. I wanted to take (the creatures) out of that environment and put them into the city, for contrast.”
Raised in San José – Mello by Uruguayan parents and Goizueta by Argentineans – the artists first met at the University of Costa Rica (UCR). Since art school, their common love of cityscapes has flowered, though this is their first joint venture.
“We both use the concept of the stain,” Goizueta said, pointing to parallels in their work. Mello calls it the “mancha urbana,” an urban stain, which he said relates partly to overpopulation and other spreading city problems.
“We may be a small city,”Mello said, “but now we have the same problems as big cities. We’ve got urban issues.”
Located 250 meters north of the kiosk in San José’s Morazán Park, Galería Amón is open Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Sunday and Monday). For more information, call 223- 9725 or visit the gallery’s Web site at

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