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Plenitud, Jorge Jiménez Deredia.

At Art of the World Gallery, sculptor Jorge Jiménez Deredia exhibits sculptures whose rounded, supple figures unite the materials of the Italian Renaissance with the spherical perfection of pre-Columbian Boruca art. That global perspective makes the Costa Rican artist’s work unlike any other sculptor, connecting the old and the new of two unrelated cultures.

And this combination clearly finds a certain universal appeal: Before arriving in Houston for a rare U.S. appearance, Deredia’s work has merited 35 solo and 100 joint exhibitions across the world, including a piece that resides in St. Peter’s Basilica—the first work by a Latin American artist to join the Vatican’s collection. His work has been everywhere from the Roman Colosseum, Rockefeller Plaza, and Museum of the Americas to cities like Paris, Shanghai, Munich, and Mexico City.

Deredia originally saw the pre-Columbian Boruca spheres on a visit to a San Jose museum while growing up in Costa Rica during the 1960s. Created almost 2,000 years ago with perfectly shaped surfaces of smooth granite, these spheres would inspire Deredia’s allegiance to what he considers the ideal shape—one that allows him to reimagine a world that isn’t complicated by edges and folds. And when he earned a study grant at age 21, that fascination followed him to the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, Italy. There he fell in love with both the Florentine style and Renaissance artists that would meld with his formative interest in Boruca craftsmanship. Graduation soon came, but Deredia never left Italy.

“When the seven months came to an end, we tore up the return ticket: I felt I had to live near Michelangelo’s quarries in Carrara,” Deredia said in the book Cosmic Energy in the Sculpture of Jiménez Deredia.

That physical and emotional proximity to Carrara marble—the stuff of Michelangelo's David—remains evident in the artist’s work. It glistens and sparkles on Plenitud, bringing the woman’s body to life as she lies in the curvature of a semi-circular vessel. She holds her upper body upright with the crossing of both arms, casually supporting a sphere that rests in the palm of her hand. Her gaze is both playful and confrontational as she is turned toward the viewer, clearly at ease in her pod. The sculpture reflects both Deredia’s craftsmanship and his ingenuity in avoiding hard edges, instead unearthing the soft and supple qualities of the marble.

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Génesis de Alquimia, 2008.

His Génesis de Alquimia sculpture, on the other hand, demonstrates Deredia’s utter devotion to the sphere. This piece includes rounded bronze disks mounted on a black granite base, signaling an evolution of gradually larger forms. The progression reflects the birth of Deredia’s final creation, a beautiful woman who maternally clutches the two spheres attached to her body where one lies in the crook of her neck while the other rests at her feet, almost like two children. The dome of her head, the rounded features, the curvature of her breasts, and the arch of her knees are all reminiscent of the sphere. Deredia invokes the idea of nature and the cosmos convening to birth a new creation.   

Massive sculptures like Pareja further demonstrate the range of Deredia, who, at 63, still does all of the strenuous chiseling and sculpting work without the help of assistants—a rarity for an artist of his stature. The sheer size and scale of the sculpture with a breadth of more than 11 feet makes it an imposing presence, adding to the grandiosity of the piece. Spherical bodies of two women lean on each other with their limbs coiled like knots, glistening with the light that accentuates the roundness of the bodies.  

In total, the peace and harmony summoned by these artworks is difficult to capture, but perhaps Dr. Oscar Arias Sánchez, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former president of Costa Rica, described it best in Cosmic Energy: “Through these sculptures of Jorge, we can transcend the realm of everyday and find food for the mind and spirit.”

Thru March 17. Art of the World Gallery, 2201 Westheimer Rd. 713-526-1201. More info at artoftheworldgallery.com.

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