San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Artists turn San José house into gallery

A house in the eastern San José neighborhood of Los Yoses is the setting for one of the city’s most original art exhibitions: “9 Cuartos” (“9 Rooms”). What looks from the outside like an average residence is home to the diverse works of 11 Costa Rican artists and two groups of furniture design artists. 

All are young and talented, but their painting, photography, sculpture and design furniture works are vastly different in style. Despite the diversity, the exhibition flows harmoniously through the house and its multiple showrooms. The design furniture pieces decorate the salon, and the sculptures, paintings and photographs are displayed throughout the rooms. 

Before becoming a gallery, the house was an empty space that belonged to the family of one of the artists, Camille Zurcher. The young photographer contacted her artist friends, and the group decided to restore the house and turn it into a gallery space. 

The artists mounted their first group exhibit last April to critical acclaim. This second exhibit is curated by internationally renowned curator and art consultant Filippo Tattoni-Marcozzi. 

Tattoni-Marcozzi co-founded with singer George Michael and his partner, Kenny Goss, the Goss-Michael Foundation, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to promoting British artists internationally. In a visit to Costa Rica, the curator attended the first “9 Cuartos” exhibition, saw the artists’ potential and offered a helping hand. 

“We are so fortunate to have had help from Filippo,” Zurcher said. “His suggestions were always valuable. He pushed us to work on projects we were not particularly focusing on, and that led to great results.”

A walk through the house offers something for all tastes. In the main salon, artist collectives Xalamandunga and Reproyectos display a collection of contemporary design furniture and lamps made with recycled materials such as old computers and recycled wood ($120-$650). 

Among the exhibit’s three painters, comic-inspired expressionist artist René González’s large-scale canvas and smaller glass pieces challenge traditional two-dimensional paintings ($700-$4,500). Fabián Monge has a story to tell with his work; his painted wood doors and drawers are “more about feelings than images,” he says ($150-$5,500). Marco Arce’s work is also expressionist-influenced; with a fearless use of colors, Arce gives life to interesting, quirky characters in his watercolors ($150-$5,500).

Orlando Guier, a student at the University of Costa Rica, employs an original clay and paper etching technique in his work. Tattoni-Marcozzi’s keen eye spotted examples of these works sitting on a shelf, and asked Guier to create more pieces using this original technique ($80-$700). 

9 Cuartos

From front left, René González, Fabián Monge, Mario Sánchez, Juan Carlos Abarca, Orlando Guier, Gabriela Monge and Camille Zurcher are among the artists participating in the “9 Cuartos” exhibit.

Alberto Font

Most prominent throughout the house is the work of five photographers, ranging from documentary to more subjective and abstract photography: Zurcher’s photos document a group of wrestlers in the southern suburb of Desamparados ($250-$400); Adrián Arias plays with shadows and what can and cannot be seen ($300); Priscilla Mora’s diptychs are storytelling dialogues between two photographs ($350); Leo Goyenaga’s large-scale photos artistically document a Moscow Circus visit to Costa Rica ($350-$650); and José Ignacio González León-Paez uses a complex technique that involves placing a glass between his camera and subject, as well as an elaborate set of lights ($300-$400). 

Finally, two sculptors exhibit their works in “9 Cuartos.” Juan Carlos Abarca sees art in what looks like garbage to others, saying, “I like working with the elements I can find in my surroundings.” His sculptures made of piled rocks are painted with glowing colors ($400-$1,000). Mario Sánchez takes a completely different approach to sculpture, carving pieces out of fallen branches of jobo trees. Smooth-surfaced mythological figures are placed over rougher pieces of wood in his works ($300-$1,800). 

“9 Cuartos” is on display through Jan. 20 in Los Yoses, 200 meters south and 25 m west of the Subaru dealership, white house, open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free.

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