San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

‘Zentica’ Joins Japanese, Tico Artists

The Sept. 1 opening of the “Zentica” art exhibit in San José’s La Aduana arts and technology center was one of the liveliest, most original art events this writer has ever attended.

The luminous glass Casa del Cuño building provided a bright venue on a rainy night for the cultural exchange of painters, sculptors, photographers and jewelers showcasing leading artists from Japan and Costa Rica.

Guests at the vernissage were treated to a feast of cultural entertainment by invited Japanese musicians, dancers, origami artists and traditional kabuki actors. As rain smeared the building’s glass walls, a crowd inside and out jostled to witness a unique performance of live painting on a huge four-square-meter canvas stretched over the floor. Drawing inspiration from accompanying drums and didgeridoo, artist Kazunobu Yanagi dramatically created a sumi, or ink painting, in blues and black, striding over his artwork until the vibrant abstract was complete. Once dry, the work was hung alongside the other artwork for the remainder of the exhibit.

Walking among the pieces, the use of natural themes by the Japanese artists is apparent, whereas darker, social issues seem to influence the Costa Rican artists. Placed together, the works succeed in offering a fascinating comparative glimpse at two very different yet somehow complementary cultures. Each Japanese artist is donating a piece from the collection to start a permanent exhibit of Asian art in the Costa Rican Art Museum in western San José’s La Sabana Park.

Sponsored by the Japanese Embassy as part of the eighth Semana Japonesa (Japanese Culture Week), “Zentica” was set up and coordinated by U.S. artist Stephen Johns, who took advantage of close links he has formed with respected Japanese and Costa Rican artists during his extensive visits to both countries.

The exhibit will be up through Sept. 30 at the Casa del Cuño in the La Aduana arts and technology center in Barrio La California (Ca. 25, Av. 7/9). Admission is free.

–Vicky Longland

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