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​In “Cosmic Energy,” Jorge Deredia meditates on the universe and human nature

In Deredia's chimera-like sculptures, the sphere is the ultimate source of life, a symbol for the convergence of humanity and universe.


By Ye Lim Oh     1/31/18 1:26am

A human figure emerges from the lofty curves of marble. A measured gleam coats an aura of impenetrability, leaving no signs of distress or rapture in its carefully polished expression. Tenderly couched between the arches of its body lies a sphere, a central motif in Deredia’s oeuvre.

I understood that the sphere is the circle of Leonardo [Da Vinci],” Costa Rican sculptor Jorge Jiménez Deredia said, as quoted in one of the exhibition texts. His reference is to the well-known “Vitruvian Man,” an anatomical sketch of a man inscribed in a circle. At a glance, Deredia’s statement might seem outdated. Da Vinci’s mapping of human nature onto the geometric exactness of a circle seems too simplistic for a contemporary audience to identify with. However, it is precisely the persistence of such gracious simplicity that awes those who witness Deredia’s marble and bronze figures. In the chimera-like sculptures, the sphere is the ultimate source of life, a symbol for the convergence of humanity and universe.

Deredia’s fascination with sphere traces back to pre-Columbian art. After the Boruca people, especially the stone spheres of Costa Rica locally called “Las Bolas.” His earliest series of works, “Geneses,” reflects his interest in the sphere as the divine foundation of all existence, both organic and abstract.

What differentiates the spheres of Costa Rica from Deredia’s, however, is a sense of change and flow. Unlike the fixed solemnity that characterizes the stone spheres of Costa Rica, Deredia’s figures are always evolving or on the verge of doing so. In some of “Cosmic Energy”’s more ambitious works, circular plates and smooth spherical surfaces materialize into a face, then a leg, then another sphere, perpetuating the endless cycle of creation. This symbolic circularity of life also includes the images of maternity. Deredia’s feminine human figures often cringe in the fetal position reproductive cycle — a process that is at once distinctly human and cosmic.

Shifting through themes of harmony, change, circularity and the universe, it would be difficult not to see the religiosity of his work. In fact, Deredia is the first Latin American artist and first non-European artist in 500 years to have his work in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. His universal appeal comes from his creative vision and mastery of materials; seamlessly combining indigenous influences with those of the European art world, Deredia realizes Da Vinci’s ideal through refined yet simple forms.

“Cosmic Energy” will be on display from Jan. 19 through March 17 at the Art of the World Gallery. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Admission is free. If you’re interested in global art, I recommend the gallery. Apart from seasonal exhibitions, it also houses a unique collection of modern and contemporary art.

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