José Bedia by Grady T. Turner

BOMB 70 Winter 2000
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Home of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company

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José Bedia, En el sendero de mi vida triste hallé una flor, 1999, acrylic and crayon on amate paper, 47⅛ x 93½ inches. All images courtesy Galeria Ramis Barquet, New York.

José Bedia’s art is as fresh as wet graffiti and as ancient as cave paintings. The Cuban-born artist resolves the distance of millennia in spare line drawings rooted at once in an appreciation for comic art and an abiding belief in the shared characteristics of indigenous faiths. A priest of Palo Monte, a rural religion closely tied to nature, Bedia has studied with Lakota Indians, the Yoruba of West Africa and adherents of the pan-Caribbean Santería religion. From a personal cosmography born of his immersion in diverse cultures, Bedia’s drawings are populated by godlike animistic figures with extenuated limbs that reach out over great distances, perhaps alluding to the artist’s desire to bring diverse cultures into synchronic unison. Sentences written in elegant script often suggest didactic messages, as in one circular canvas in which a rabbit-eared figure growing from a mountain holds in its fist a wide-winged bird straining to reach the horizon. No puedo retenerte más is the enscribed legend: I can no longer hold you. It is a sentiment familiar to anyone who has tried in vain to restrain something that must be freed—a child, a lover, a secret—or conversely felt trapped by loving constraints. Though accessible on the surface, Bedia’s art inevitably withholds layers that remain ambiguous. Why are such intimate sentiments set against astrological renderings of the night sky? Why are offerings left at certain drawings and installations? Even for the uninitiated, Bedia is a great teacher, using his tremendous graphic skill to engage viewers in a personal spiritual voyage.

—Grady T. Turner

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José Bedia, Debe de haber algún otro sitio, 1999, acrylic on canvas, 88 × 73 inches.

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José Bedia, Los vigias de la torre dicen que allí­, 1998, acrylic on canvas, 106 × 75 inches.

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Originally published in

BOMB 70, Winter 2000

Featuring interviews with Ruben Ortiz, Juan Manuel Echavarria, Susan Baca, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Jose Cura, Adelia Prado, Ernesto Neto, Mayra Montero, Claribel Alegria, Francisco Toledo, and Juan Formell. 

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