Fernando Carballo exhibit showcases 40 years of technique

July 2, 2014
Courtesy RedCultura
“Cazando Mariposas” (“Hunting Butterflies”) shows Carballo’s peculiar mingling of realistic portraiture with a surreal twist. Courtesy RedCultura

It’s one of the miracles of art: If you know what you’re doing, you can skip the brush and just dribble paint directly onto paper. The paint plops into lines and curves, drips and splotches, until – voila! – a woman’s face emerges, as human and alive as a painting can be.

Such freeform painting is just one of the techniques Fernando Carballo has used over the past four decades, along with drawing and traditional brushwork. Now 72 years old, Carballo is a revered artist in Costa Rica, where he has won awards for his canvases. This month, Casa del Artista has dedicated its gallery to a Carballo retrospective; simply titled “Graphic Exposition,” the display showcases 15 of his works.

If you happen to be passing through the neighborhood of Guadalupe anyway, the Carballo collection is worth a visit, especially if you have never heard his name. What’s striking about Carballo is that he has tried a variety of styles and media: “Muchacha Bonita” is the portrait of a young woman, a kind of line drawing made from dripped paint. In contrast, “Espalda Masculina” (“Masculine Back”) shows a shirtless man’s shoulder blades. His musculature is richly colored and shaded with colored pencils. The two portraits seem completely dissimilar, as if created by two very different artists.

Yet all of Carballo’s work shares a single trait: it seems slightly unreal. Even his most realistic figures, like the one in “Personaje” (“Character”), is somehow warped or exaggerated. The bald, naked man in “Personaje” is realistically rendered overall, but he has a huge, beckoning hand, like a homunculus in a bad dream. “Madre” (“Mother”) is the haunting image of a woman, drawn in stark pen-and-ink, with a stoic face and bulbous lower belly. Carballo imaginatively renders her curvature, from sharp nose to baby bump, with the anatomical freedom of Frank Frazetta. Many of the other figures look like Freudian doodles, playfully sexual though never exactly erotic.

The Carballo exhibit is the perfect excuse to visit Casa del Artista, an art school operated by the Museum of Costa Rican Art. With a name like “Artist’s House,” you might expect a rundown potting studio in a converted mill, the kind of dusty little workshop you find in quaint U.S. towns. But Casa del Artista is headquartered in a spacious, spotless, super-modern building. The school hosts hands-on classes in every kind of medium. If you have artistic aspirations and you speak even a lick of Spanish, the course catalogue is worth a gander.

In this sense, Carballo’s work is the perfect installation for the school’s lobby. He demonstrates the range of draftsmanship a single artist can attempt. Try everything, he seems to suggest. Something’s bound to turn out right.

“Exposición Gráfica de Fernando Carballo” continues through June 30 at Casa del Artista, Guadalupe. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Free. Info: Museum of Costa Rican Art website.

You may be interested

Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, Real Madrid nab third consecutive Champions title
Keylor Navas
94 views
Keylor Navas
94 views

Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, Real Madrid nab third consecutive Champions title

Katherine Stanley - May 26, 2018

Costa Rica's star goalie, Keylor Navas, continued his historic march through world football as his club team, Real Madrid, won…

Adaptive surfing, part III: Riding the waves with Noah
sports
179 views
sports
179 views

Adaptive surfing, part III: Riding the waves with Noah

Ellen Zoe Golden - May 25, 2018

Part III in a series on adaptive surfing in Costa Rica. Read Part I, about the country's association for disabled…

It’s frog orgy season
Environment and Wildlife
1280 views
Environment and Wildlife
1280 views

It’s frog orgy season

Lindsay Fendt - May 25, 2018

The rainy season is upon us. For many of us that means hiding indoors for the next few months, but for Costa…