San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemalan painter takes cues from Jews in San José show

An arched, bearded figure wearing a skull cap and praying at a wall. A burning hot desertscape. A glowing candelabra.

Abstract depictions of such familiar Jewish imagery illuminate canvases this week at San José´s Amodeo Gallery, as emerging Guatemalan artist Victor Pérez-Maldonado makes his Costa Rica debut with the show “Jojmá, Biná, Daat.

Earlier this year, as friends were winding down from celebrating Pascua, or Easter, Pérez was gearing up for a different religious experience – “Pascua judía,” he said, the Spanish name for the Jewish exodus celebration of Passover, which usually falls near the same dates.

Participating in the seder, the symbols-heavy meal that marks the Jews´ path to liberation from Egypt, this non-Jewish artist took a keen interest in the age old faith and its language, he told The Tico Times at the art opening last week.

That inspired him to study and to paint. He said three Hebrew words, jojmá, biná, daat (in Spanish transliteration), guide the new exhibition by the same title. They loosely mean “wisdom, understanding and knowledge,” and are regarded as fundamental concepts in mystical Judaism´s Cabala.

Much of the work conveys hardship, happiness, and solitude endured along life´s paths, he said, but added that he´d like viewers to interpret each one for themselves.

One of the show´s most striking works, entitled “Experiencia,” contains a scorching red sky with orange-yellow slashes, beating on a black desert. Hasty black brush strokes form people, trudging along. Streaks of blue in the thick black mass are meant to provide depth and cool relief, said Pérez.

He added that the piece reveals his personal love for the work of Latvian-born U.S. abstract expressionist Mark Rothko.

Just as the other paintings, this one is accompanied by a poem. It begins, “The desert of the path, or the desert of fate…”

Initially scheduled to run until Saturday, July 12, curator Alonso Duran said the paintings could remain on display through the following Tuesday, July 15.

Amodeo Gallery (2291-1908, is located 100 meters before the end of Rohrmoser Boulevard.

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