Connoisseurs of Costa Rican art recognize Rafa Fernández as one of the country’s most influential painters. Born in 1935, Rafa Fernández has produced a large body of critically acclaimed work and has had many national and international exhibits.

Largely self-taught, Rafa Fernández has won several important awards for his artwork, most notably the 2002 Magón Prize, awarded by the Costa Rican government. His paintings often focus on the feminine form in surreal, magical settings, and his palette is rich and colorful.

In 2002, Rafa Fernández put together a viewer-friendly exhibit of his work, rejecting the traditional museum space in favor of San José’s city streets—the “heart of my city,” according to the artist. For this exhibit, the artist hung high-quality reproductions of his work on the outdoor information kiosks that stand in the pedestrian mall of Avenida Central. Viewers could stroll outside, studying 28 paintings that represented 50 years of the artist’s work. Johnny Araya, then mayor of San José, declared that this exhibit would bring the artist’s work closer to the average Costa Rican and that the images would speak to the spirit of the entire community. The exhibit acknowledges the artist’s own efforts to bring good art to the average Costa Rican.

In March 2009, Rafa Fernández exhibited 25 of his recent oil paintings at the Calderón Guardia Museum (Museo Histórico Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia). The exhibit included fantastical images of acrobats, unicyclists, trapeze artists and marvelous animals.

Of this recent exhibit, the artist said that

…[m]y paintings are the ghosts, large or small, who surrounded me in my childhood and who showed me that the world could be seen from an alternate dimension: filled with magic, mood and craziness, that I could create the most absurd worlds from the most concrete reality and that I could allow myself the luxury of absolute belief in the reality of these worlds. [The ghosts] taught me to create images that did not exist, to speak with characters I did not know, and in time, they became my family.

Read a brief biography of Rafa Fernández.

Read more about Rafa Fernandez’s exhibit on the streets of San José

Read more about Rafa Fernández’s exhibit at the Calderón Guardia Museum

Read about César Valverde, another great Costa Rican artist.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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