Whitehot Magazine

Seguimos: Contemporary Art in Costa Rica at Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica

PRISCILLA ROMERO-CUBERO, Seguimos, 2022, Installation of 120 prints on silk gampi paper, 6 x 9 inches each (unique), 69.5 x 133"


Seguimos: Contemporary Art in Costa Rica
March 30–May 18, 2024
Curated by Hannah Sloan and Craig Krull Gallery
Craig Krull Gallery
Bergamot Station Arts Center

The exhibition includes work by: Adrián Arguedas Ruano, Alina González, Allegra Pacheco, Christian Wedel, Isaac Loría, Javier Calvo, La Cholla Jackson, Lucía Howell, Luciano Goizueta, Matias Sauter Morera, Mimian Hsu Chen, Priscilla Romero-Cubero and Valiente Pastel.

By STEPHEN WOZNIAK April 16, 2024

Costa Rican artist Priscilla Romero-Cubero’s 120-piece, printed-and-pinned Seguimos installation sets a somber tone at Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica. It stands calmly among the mostly body-centered works that make up the relevant group exhibition of the same name, deftly curated by Hannah Sloan. Translated from Spanish to English, Romero-Cubero’s piece means “we persist” or “we carry on”—above our personal identity and will. The work features a series of four top-half-of-the-finger prints taken from latex hand molds of people she knew, which leave sharp, high-contrast, black-and-white impressions on Japanese gampi paper that neatly loads the far wall in a massive matrix. A translucent, horizontal slash mark—like a trail of blood—crosses each set of torn, skinned and flattened fingers, marking loss—counting the deceased, the damned and the disappeared. If the piece weren’t so austere and elegant, it would be overwhelming, but as we take it all in, the artist seems to give us a peaceable funerary moment to honor those who have passed along our path. While I’m guessing that many of the finger models used to make the work are alive and well today, the piece also connotes our collective beyond-blood relationships—past, present and future—including the brutal and beautiful stories that inevitably add up to our own, which we would be wise to heed. And the work in this show features extraordinary moments from plenty of meaningful and revelatory stories.

 Lucia Howell, still image from performance video. Videography by Cristóbal Serrá Jorquera. Music track: Ovsicori


Lucía Howell’s Villi, from 2022–2023, a two-minute performance video with an unavoidable installation of billowing grain stalks and earth below, features a central, nude female figure both standing on untrodden rolling hills and lying in shaded running waters. Donning laser-cut acrylic mirrored masks and body objects, light from the sky above beams out from these shiny loci, reflecting energy back to the viewing audience. Low rumbling and high twinkling ambient music plays in the background, providing a mysterious soundtrack to the work’s shifting imagery. Each clip in the piece seemingly appears as a freeze-frame photo until you see the minor wave of wind-swept grass, bubbling river water or achingly slow camera zooms toward the figure. There’s a certain modest show of strength to the character who looks at us while remaining stationary out in the wild. The drama built into the deliberate static stances (which harken back to the artist’s ballet past) of the video’s figure contrasts greatly with the natural setting, pointing to a real-time existential bodily experience in our primal landscape element, as well as to the characters and stories we weave in various art forms to record such an experience. There’s so much allusive poetry and beauty to this piece that you must patiently sit and view it a few times to get the rhythm and revelations it proffers.

ALLEGRA PACHECO, Untitled, from the series, Blood Sugar, 2022, oil on canvas, 26 x 28 x 4 cm, 10 x 11 x 1.5 in

A small untitled painting in the next room by artist and fighter-in-training Allegra Pacheco packs a big punch in its tiny format. Featuring what looks like a left boxing jab upon an already bruised and beaten fighter’s face, the blurred imagery makes it hard to tell who’s coming and going in this piece. And that’s part of the idea, I imagine. Hot and sweaty fighters locked in step, like lovers joined at the hips tangled in bedsheets, often find it hard to distinguish who’s who when the high-octane action reaches its climax. The feminized, dirty, cotton-candy pink background in this painting does something to temper the blows, almost calming the nerves and letting us know that it’ll be alright when the fighting stops at the end of the round. An additional group of more than a dozen little mixed martial art paintings on black backgrounds nearby give us more blurred glimmers of give-and-take-it-in-the-ring pugilist snapshots. They remind me a bit of Ed Paschke’s blurry dayglow 1980s portraits mixed with classic Francis Bacon works of the 1950s—but stripped down and brought up to speed in 2024.

There are two artwork elephants in the room and both of their subjects possess hard-ons. They are difficult to miss, even though swollen genital nudes in art are as old as, well, art itself. The first (from a group of three works) is Valiente Pastel’s Untitled painted magazine page from 2023. It features a largely sepia background image of a tire, a deflated inner tube and an orange fiberglass ladder with a painted nude man holding large automotive coil springs in each hand. The muscle-bound Latino male figure, wearing lipstick and red nail polish on his hands and feet, poses like a 1980s beefcake calendar model. It’s a funny image, not because of his erect penis but because he looks so cartoonish and innocent, like he doesn’t know what to do with his own strength, prowess and virility. It’s adorable in its own way, especially owing to the sharp disparity between the rugged auto junk and the queer man’s bulging brawn and fleshy skin.  In any event, Pastel’s piece put a big smile on my face for his kind and playful treatment of its central character.

VALIENTE PASTEL, Untitled, 2024, painted magazine, Paper: 10.75 x 8 inches / Frame: 13.75 x 10.75 inches, Signed by the artist on verso

The other picture I speak of, Venus #3, from 2023, was created by transgender artist Alina González. In the painting, reminiscent of somber Modigliani nudes, we see a woman’s beautiful oval face with a long black ponytail hanging over the right shoulder onto their breast. The pose is relaxed, while the stiff cock below is anything but. The artist is known for painting brutal Baconesque figure pieces but also trans and intersex porn stars. Unlike the brazen no-holes-barred copulation that I imagine takes place in alternative LGBTQIA2S adult videos, the painting offers a serene, nearly-hypnotic and dignified portrait of a human first—beyond born-this-way, elective or nominal gender identification. While painted, when seen from several feet back, Venus #3 looks like it was crafted from heavy layers of earthen pastels on a leathery clay ground. The sketchy, ropey, dark figure outline further gives it a loose, organic, here-and-now feel that provides a secreted connection to the central subject. Like the Roman goddess of love, beauty, and desire, this Venus absorbs fiery male energy, reconciling the opposite sexes but, here, visibly manifesting both into one.

One last piece that grabbed my attention was a large lush photographic work entitled Toro Amarillo by artist Matias Sauter Morera from his Tropical Nature series. This anomaly in the exhibition, featuring no figures whatsoever, shows us a verdant mountainside wall of tropical forest. Much of Central and South America’s forests have been sold for agricultural development, with vast acreage allocated to raising livestock, the latter causing a massive increase in ozone-depleting greenhouse gases and degenerative, diet-based, human disease. Morera, who grew up in Costa Rica, a country recognized for its abundant jungles and rainforests, moved to Berlin some dozen years ago. There, he reflected on both his current personal identity and origins in Costa Rica. He developed his photo series to help viewers understand that the value of the land represents so much more than beachside vacation paradises. It is a cultural touchstone, a precious resource, a livelihood, but also a place of natural danger and, of course, human-driven destruction. In any event, the piece rustles our emotional state despite its cool composition. The photo’s dark dense imagery gives us the sense that the strength and purity of the earth’s forests are still possible. To me, it is a beacon of hope in the face of our willful and careless ways.

MATIAS SAUTER MORERA, Toro Amarillo Jungle, From the series: New World Tropics, 2024, Museum Fine Art C-Print (Fujiflex), 33 x 49 inches, Edition 3/5, mounted & framed


Much of what’s in the Seguimos exhibition highlights our place in the world, whether rendered through the lens of politics, poetry, power or even posture. Among the sumptuous, abstract biomorphic shapes, alarming nudes and quizzical sprawling fabrications featured in the show’s works are intimate events that reveal, obscure or otherwise allude to the vessel in which we reside—our bodies. I say “ours,” but whose body is it anyway? While the answer might not be complicated, it is always contentious, especially in today’s day and age, where just around the corner, or a few thousand miles away in Central America, our rights can turn to mush in a matter of legislative, war-torn or culturally conflicted moments. But the works here are bigger than that, exploring the contexts of our relationships, as much as those bodies that perceive, occupy and connect them.

While the pool of Western art cognoscenti has been hip to the trip of contemporary Central and South American art for a few decades now (think Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach and MoMA’s recent Chosen Memories group exhibition), it seems that we need to take a closer sustained look at and other these pertinent works. Krull, Sloan and the Seguimos show do just that by narrowing the scope to a crucial Costa Rican cadre of makers that not only tenders regional perspectives about bodies-in-motion, figures-in-grounds and people-in-stories but passes us pieces to a bigger picture and universal puzzle of understanding. WM


A curators walkthrough with Hannah Sloan and Craig Krull is scheduled for Saturday, April 20 at 11AM – coffee and donuts will be served. Please RSVP by April 18 to info@craigkrullgallery.com

Stephen Wozniak

Stephen Wozniak is a visual artist, writer, and actor based in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited in the Bradbury Art Museum, Cameron Art Museum, Leo Castelli Gallery, and Lincoln Center. He has performed principal roles on Star Trek: EnterpriseNCIS: Los Angeles, and the double Emmy Award-nominated Time Machine: Beyond the Da Vinci Code. He co-hosted the performing arts series Center Stage on KXLU radio in Los Angeles and guest hosts Art World: The Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art podcast in New York City. He earned a B.F.A. from Maryland Institute College of Art and attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. To learn more, go to: www.stephenwozniakart.com and www.stephenwozniak.com. Follow Stephen on Instagram at @stephenwozniakart and @thestephenwozniak.

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