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Art review: Jose Bedia at Latin American Masters

May 21, 2010 |  8:00 pm
400.Latin American Masters Group #2 149 The earliest art expressed a spiritual communion with nature, whether capturing animal spirits for the hunt or condensing the mysteries of reproduction in a fertility icon. Cuban-born Miami-based artist José Bedia marries this shamanic impulse with the vocabulary of modern abstract painting in his striking exhibition at Latin American Masters. Applying expressive paint handling to iconic figures and animals (or hybrids of the two), he reactivates imagery drawn from Native American and African spiritual traditions.

In “Gente Venado (Deer People),” six ghostly figures with antlers emerge from a textured gray ground, their bodies little more than vertical black smudges. Pulsing yellow lines form a polygonal shape around them that seems to mark a territory, the boundaries of some ceremony, perhaps, but also suggests the reductive lines of modernist geometry.

Similarly, in “Seguido por la Tormenta (Followed by the Storm),” a mass of black gestural marks is also a surging storm cloud and a vaguely feline predator, bounding after a deer that would be at home on the walls of Lascaux. Trailing behind the cloud is a tiny, realistically rendered airplane.

400.Latin American Masters Group #2 138 This juxtaposition places fleeting, ever-changing nature against our leaden, puny attempts to conquer it, but it also suggests a surprising seamlessness between spiritual and physical worlds. Not all of the works in the show achieve the same rich balance, but for the most part Bedia uses the energy of gestural painting to echo seemingly boundless forces beyond.

– Sharon Mizota

Latin American Masters, 2525 Michigan Ave. E2, Santa Monica, (310) 829-4455, through June 12. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.latinamericanmasters.com

Images: Ngombe (Caballo) (Horse)(top) and Vision en el Desierto (Vision in the Desert). Courtesy of Latin American Masters.

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