San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. Artist Explores Motion in Valoarte

An artist who has lived in Atlanta, Brussels, and now San José, Andrew Hardin doesn’t like to sit still. His hands move rapidly as he talks, and his conversation flits along just as fast, flying from topic to topic. He changes countries almost as frequently as artistic mediums, and the idea of a vacation makes him visibly uncomfortable. It makes sense, then, that Hardin, the only Gringo to be selected for this year’s prestigious Valoarte exhibition contest, explores his preoccupation with constant motion in his art.

“Nothing is static, everything is moving.

The entire universe is radioactive,” Hardin says in the downtown San José studio he shares with well-known Tico painter Joaquín Rodríguez del Paso.

He taps the glass coffee table in front of him and his eyes widen. “This is liquid, did you know that?” he asks.

The winning photograph in Hardin’s series “Cyclofuturista” is a dark and abstract pigment print of a solitary bicycle outside of a bar that Hardin says he had only one minute to shoot.

“You have to move around just right to see the image,” Hardin says in his southern U.S. drawl, pointing to the large photograph behind him. The image, which is printed to look much like an oil painting, explores both the potential motion of the bicycle and the camera’s attempt to capture it.

The series was inspired by a group of early 20th century Italian artists who called themselves futurists, as well as by British artist Francis Bacon, who painted dark, moody works.

Their focus on movement fascinates Hardin. “My objective is to create … something alive,” he says.

Hardin, 50, says that as an artist living and working in the United States, he developed a “bad reputation” for his controversial installation art, including one piece that involved human blood. Hardin then worked in Brussels for several years, but found himself disenchanted with the formalities artists must adhere to in Europe and the difficulties of procuring a work visa.

He prefers the more relaxed artistic atmosphere in Costa Rica, where he’s lived for three years. Here, Hardin rediscovered his love for photography, which he had abandoned decades ago. The Valoarte show is only the third time Hardin has exhibited his work in San José, but he says he is already impressed with the artistic community here.

“I had no idea when I came down here that there was any contemporary art going on in Costa Rica at all,” he says. “I was really impressed.”

Judging by the many warm greetings from fellow artists at the Sept. 2 opening of the Valoarte show at San José’s National Gallery, Hardin is fast integrating himself into the Costa Rican art scene. Now in its sixth year, the annual show donates its proceeds to Hogar Siembra, a nonprofit that helps atrisk women and young girls. The exhibition’s organizers invited about half of the artists and selected the other half through a contest.

Only 51 artists were chosen from the almost 200 who competed. Many of the artists are international, which the organizers say is a sign that Costa Rica is more and more participating in the global arts scene.

Hardin’s face lights up when he sees an orange sticker next to his photograph at the gallery on opening night. His work has sold fast, while many still hang on the walls, waiting for a buyer. Vice President Laura Chinchilla has been in the room, and briefly stopped to look at the photo. Earlier, Chinchilla gave an impassioned speech about the power of art to enact social change.

Hardin, however, is already envisioning  his next project for which he will move from photography back to installation art. He wants to arrange 16 back-to-back television monitors in the shape of the Indian sun symbol (more widely recognized as a swastika). The monitors would play images of plants moving in the breeze, and the images would hop from monitor to monitor. The sun symbol indicates movement, and, much like the artist, the work would appear to be spinning.

View Valoarte

Featuring 301 works by 189 artists, Valoarte is on display through Oct. 3 at the National Gallery in downtown San José’s Children’s Museum, the castlelike structure at the north end of Calle 4. The gallery is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends and holidays.

Admission is free. For information, call 2258-4929 or visit


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