Today @ AK

José Bedia

Cuban, born 1959

Image courtesy Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami. © 2010 José Bedia.

Somalian Prey, 2010

Acrylic on canvas
93 1/4 x 214 3/8 inches (236.9 x 544.5 cm)
Charles W. Goodyear and Mrs. Georgia M. G. Forman Fund, by exchange, Gift of A. Conger Goodyear, by exchange, Elisabeth H. Gates Fund, by exchange and Sherman S. Jewett Fund, by exchange, 2011

Inspired by Afro-Cuban and, later, Native American traditions and religions, the Cuban-born artist José Bedia blends narrative, mythology, and symbolism with humor and pathos in haunting, expressionist paintings. Born in Cuba, Bedia immigrated to Mexico in 1991. In 1993, he came to the United States, where he now lives. Since that time, Bedia has been making dark, brooding works featuring military battleships and fighter jets, often combining these images with forms alluding to pre-industrial folk life that imply a complicated relationship with America and the industrial world. Stark, black, geometric forms representing vessels, mountains, and trees reflect Bedia’s trademark style. In addition, his paintings frequently juxtapose text and images in a way similar to comic books, referencing various cosmologies and posing warnings about the economy and world affairs. Depicting a smoky gray-and-black, Turner-esque military vessel on a turbulent ocean, Somalian Prey, 2010, is a response to the aggressive tactics of Somalian pirates and reflects the artist’s interest in merging African culture and current events. 

More about the artist

José Bedia was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1959. He studied at Escuela de Artes Plasticas San Alejandro (1972–1976) and the Instituto Superior de Arte, Havana (1976–1981). In 1985, he visited the United States, serving as the artist in residence at the College at Old Westbury, State University of New York, and spending time on the Sioux Tribe’s Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. His stay at the Reservation furthered his interest in Native American cultures and religious practices, as well as the culture and beliefs that have developed from a colonized society. While Bedia studied a formal, academic style, he eventually created his own vision, incorporating elements of the indigenous cultures of Africa and America into his work. Bedia has presented his work in numerous one-man exhibitions—including Crónicas Americanas I, Casa de la Cultura de Plaza, Havana, Cuba (1980); Brevisima relación de la destrucción de las Indias, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City (1992); José Bedia: Fragmentos de una Historia, Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami (2000); José Bedia, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts (2001); and Status Quo, Costantini Arte Contemporanea, Milan (2008)—as well as numerous group exhibitions. He has won several awards, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation International Fellowship in 1993. Bedia’s work is held in private and public collections, both nationally and internationally, including the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Miami Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. He currently lives and works in Miami, Florida.