José Bedia’s “Viaje circular” at MARCO- Monterrey, Mexico

[Many thanks to Veerle Poupeye for bringing this item to our attention.] José Bedia is celebrating a retrospective in Mexico with works from more than three decades—“José Bedia: Viaje circular”—at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico [Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, MARCO] where it will be on view until July 2023.

Cuban artist José Bedia is celebrating a retrospective these days at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Monterrey (Mexico) with more than 102 pieces on display that “allows us to appreciate the result of an artistic investigation of several decades,” said Taiyana Pimentel, director of MARCO and curator of the exhibition. “José Bedia: Viaje circular” [Jose Bedia: Circular Voyage] is the name of the exhibition that covers halls 6 to 11 on the top floor of the museum. It was inaugurated on January 27 and will be open until July.

Undoubtedly, a celebration full of meaning for two reasons, given that Mexico has been central to the career of the Cuban artist, particularly his native communities, which have influenced his work in multiple ways. “They are very creative in indigenous communities. People think that they are stagnant, and of course that they respond to a tradition, but they have a great capacity to assimilate new elements and interpret them in their own way and benefit. I try to be influenced by these cultural elements, but also by the philosophy and religious thought of these people and communities,” said the artist in an interview with Mexican newspaper La Vanguardia.

During the inaugural talk at the museum, Bedia recounted the origin of his interest in the premodern cultures of Latin America and the world. He recalled that in his training in Havana, the model to follow and study was always Western art—something that can be applied to programs in other countries—a fact that was never in tune with his sensitivity and poetics.

The exhibition at MARCO is conclusive proof that the vision of art that Bedia has developed for decades is very far from the Eurocentric model and very close to tribal creativity and symbology. In addition to Pimentel, the exhibition was curated by José Bedia Fuertes, son of the artist and director of his studio. Both had been imagining this representative selection of the artist’s career for 5 years, Pimentel confirmed at the opening.

Divided into ten sections, José Bedia. Viaje circular includes oil and acrylics, pastels on paper, tempera, acrylic, mixed media, and collage. The curatorship wanted to highlight the different interests and stages in the artist’s career, although his creations dating from 2000 to the most recent works occupy more space.

In section ten are the works related to his study of Afro-Cuban cultures. Most of the pieces are textiles originating from the Mali communities. Before the artisans transformed the fabrics into garments, Bedia intervened by painting figures related to rituals, customs, beliefs, and deities.

Another relevant section is the seventh. There are the painter’s works that celebrate symmetry as a key element of tribal art, in this case, inspired by the Seri group in northern Mexico.

The fourth section is also significant from the formal point of view. In this section, circular or oval formats predominate, which defy the traditional square frame and also allude to the circular worldview of the universe.

In dialogue with his works, pieces from the Bedia ethnographic collection appear in the rooms. Some of the symbols or images that can be seen in the textiles, hanging on the walls, which the artist has preserved from his research and stays in communities in Latin America, Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the United States, are often transferred to his paintings.

Bedia’s artistic penchant for pre-modern rituals and traditions finds a foothold in his life experience. From an early age he has been a priest of the Regla del Palo, an Afro-Cuban religion with deep conga roots, as well as being a member of the Native American Church, of indigenous origin. [. . .]

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (in Spanish), see

[Shown above: Detalle de ‘Venadito de flores estás por ahí’, 2021, Acrílico sobre papel amate. Foto: MARCO.]

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