As Hurricane Ian approached the state of Florida at the end of September 2022, some of the monumental works by the Costa Rican sculptor Jorge Jimenez Deredia They were already in Miami. They were in full installation in the Maurice A. Ferré Park for the outdoor exhibition “A bridge of light”.
Not knowing if Miami would suffer Ian’s wrath, the sculptures of monumental proportions needed to be protected. Despite the size and weight of some works, such as the sculptural group of the “Genesis of the Egg” (2 tons and 6 meters long), the pieces were secured with large load straps to avoid any monumental imbalance.
Ian did not arrive in Miami and the 14 sculptures remained intact on the boardwalk, where they were presented on October 12. They will remain on display there until March 31, 2023.
“A bridge of light” shows a decade of work by Jiménez Deredia, who refers to them as “sculptural groups” because some pieces are made up of four sculptures that illustrate the transmutation of matter. The exhibition proposes an inner journey, a reflection of oneself, an intimate path and an encounter with the cosmos, he says.
Using techniques similar to those of ancient Greek and Roman sculptors – by hand and without machines – each piece takes between eight months and a year to make. Sizes vary between 2 and 9 meters long and weigh between 400 and 5,900 kilos. All are produced in the artist’s workshop in Italy, located near the Carrara quarries, where he has 34 employees and is supported by four local foundries.
Some sculptures are dark bronze and polished. In their curved forms the sky, the water of Biscayne Bay or the silhouette of whoever looks at them is reflected. Their shapes seem to defy gravity. Others are solid white, hand-carved from Carrara marble.
The sculptures compose a symbolic “description of the transmutation of matter” to form a bridge between the artist and the viewer. “I am convinced that in the journey of life we participate in the great cosmic process of life and the universe. We help the universe to fulfill its destiny with our existence”, explains Deredia. “In my sculptures, I try to take a snapshot of that spiritual baggage, that deep, cosmic history that we all have.”
It reveals that this is the idea of “A bridge of light”: “To delve into the spirituality of people and offer the opportunity to have a communication at a deep level”, he says.
The location of the exhibition in the Maurice A. Ferré Park, next to the Pérez Art Museum Miami, and facing Biscayne Bay, also offers different associations of the sculptures with the city.
Miguel Ferro, artistic director of the Bayfront Park Management Trust, talks about the connection between the landscape and the sculptures. “Behind them is the stadium (formerly known as American Airlines Arena) and the Freedom Tower… the first canal entrance to the continental United States and on the other side is the (MacArthur) Causeway.” They are symbols of entry, connection and settlement in the city.
Bayfront Park Management Trust is one of the organizations presenting the exhibition, along with the city of Miami and the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora.
Ferro says that it was fascinating to watch the artist as he curated the exhibition, defining where to place each work, in balance with the background of the landscape. “It was magical to see how the sculptures harmonized within the space.”
Born in Heredia, Costa Rica, on October 4, 1954, Deredia moved to Italy in 1976, when he received a scholarship to study at the Carrara Academy of Fine Arts. There he opened his studio, worked as a sculptor and attended architecture classes at the University of Florence.
His work became known for its spiritual quest. In 1999, the Vatican contacted him in Rome and, after speaking with Pope John Paul II, he produced the first monumental work that a Latin American artist placed in Saint Peter’s Basilica: the statue of Saint Marcellin Champagnat 5.3 meters high, which is located in one of the niches built by Michelangelo. However, when Deredia explains the roots of his spiritual journey, he does not link his art to Catholicism. He refers to the search for him with a broader symbolism: “the transmutation of matter”.
The artist recalls how a text written by the art critic Pierre Restany in 1985 was key to understanding his work more as a process of transformation. The French critic described Deredia’s work as “spiritual itineraries” rather than finished sculptures. Understanding the meaning of his own work through the critic’s voice marked a moment of “spiritual revelation and cosmic illumination,” says Deredia. Only a month later, he changed his last name from Jiménez Martínez to Jiménez Deredia (as a combination of the words “from Heredia”, his hometown). That moment also marked the beginning of the creation of the “Genesis” series, a group of four sculptures that represent the mutation of matter.
Deredia’s “spiritual itineraries” can range from the abstract to the figurative. The essence is the symbolism.
“I invented the theory of transmutative symbolism,” explains Deredia. “Symbols help us understand that dark part that lives within us. Symbols are effective in helping us understand existence because they not only show us things that are obvious, they also show us things that are hidden.”
The exhibition “A Bridge of Light,” by Jorge Jiménez Deredia, organized by the Bayfront Park Management Trust and the Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, free at Maurice A. Ferré Park, 1075 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33132, through May 31 March 2023. For more information call (305) 358-7550 or visit bayfrontparkmiami.com
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Monumental sculptural works by Jorge Jiménez Deredia transform the Maurice A. Ferré Park