Anyone who knows art in Miami, knows Jose Bedia. After rising in the art world in his native Cuba in the 1980s — he was part of the first and second Havana Biennial, the latest edition of which just opened earlier in the month — and becoming part of a new wave of artists known as the ’80s Generation, Bedia left his native island and set up a new home in Miami in 1993.
Bedia is known for his explorations into his Afro-Caribbean and African roots, into its unique religions, mythologies and symbolism, through painting, drawing, sculpture and installation. His increasingly popular and recognizable creations popped up all over town, inside and outside, in galleries, museums and public spaces, and all over the world.
On Thursday, the Miami Art Museum (a Knight Arts grantee) will open up a major retrospective of our adopted son with “Transcultural Pilgrim: Three Decades of Work by Jose Bedia,” featuring 35 works. Over those three decades highlighted here, Bedia really did explore the world, in search of those spiritual and historical histories that he would incorporate in his art, from deserts in Mexico and the Amazon, to the Dominican countryside and Central African savannas — he is, indeed, an artistic and cultural pilgrim. And it’s about time we see this amount of work in this kind of context (the retrospective was organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA, where it was inaugurated last year).
As an extra bonus, the exhibit will include artifacts that Bedia picked up on his journeys, which inspired his artwork. These include sculptures and totems, tapestries and other textiles, masks and other religious relics. “I collect these objects to learn from them,” according to the artist. “For me, this is like a library. These are my books. That’s why I keep them in front of me every day.”
In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum will host related events and talks. For instance, tonight as part of MAM@ Books & Books (265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables), author Robert Thompson, a scholar of Bedia’s work, will read from his book Flash of the Spirit: African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy at 6:30 p.m.
This is an important show for Bedia, and for Miami.
“Transcultural Pilgrim: Three Decades of Work by Jose Bedia” opens on May 24 and runs through Sept. 2 at the Miami Art Museum, 101 W. Flagler St, Miami; 305-375-3000; miamiartmuseum.org