San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Artist Juan Carlos Valverde gets metaphysical

juan carlos valverde

Juan Carlos Valverde. Courtesy of Hidden Garden Art Gallery 

If you have visited a beachside gallery in Costa Rica, you have seen this kind of painting: smooth, colorful and inoffensive. The painting shows something real – a toucan, a woman, some swaying trees – but the style isn’t quite realistic. The colors are too perfect, the shapes are warped, and the surfaces look polished. They look nice, but they “mean” very little.

Pleasant as his work is, Juan Carlos Valverde takes this style one step further. Instead of showing real things, he shows humanoid forms that blend into surreal backgrounds. The creatures are playful, even cuddly, but they occupy cerebral spaces. His palette is muted, like the color of distressed jeans. Most importantly, his figures look meditative, both existing in the world and transcending it – and it is this spiritual atmosphere that sets Valverde apart.

Valverde’s series, “Pasajes metafisicos” (“Metaphysical Passages”) will receive an opening reception at Hidden Garden Art Gallery this Saturday. Guanacaste is a fair distance from the San José arts scene, but that’s what makes Hidden Garden so valuable to Liberia and its environs: the place houses 14 rooms and 3,000 square feet, plus about 400 individual pieces from 50 artists. These are robust statistics for a commercial art gallery, especially for a commercial gallery in an area best known for surfing and rodeos.

The artist will be present to describe his work, and hopefully he will elaborate upon his rich biography: as a child, Valverde used found materials to create tiny sculptures and figurines, and he later studied fine art at the University of Costa Rica and in Spain and Finland. For patrons who can make his six-hour opening, ask about his use of coffee beans in his multimedia work. The answer should be illuminating.

“Pasajes metafisicos” opens Saturday, Nov. 9, with a reception from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Hidden Garden Art Gallery is located 4 km west of Daniel Oduber Airport. For more, call 2667-0592 or visit

Contact Robert Isenberg at

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