Spirit World

Since his last New York show, José Bedia's personal cosmography has grown increasingly complex. The Cuban-born artist has long studied indigenous faiths more as an acolyte than an anthropologist, always searching for shared traits. In Miami, his home since 1993, Bedia is a priest in the Afro-Cuban religion Palo Monte, which honors spirits that eschew cities. Fortunately for city dwellers, Bedia is currently featured in three New York shows.

In addition to an installation in "Animal.Anima.Animus" at P.S.1 (through September 11), Bedia has solo exhibitions at two Manhattan galleries. At Annina Nosei (530 West 22nd Street, through July 16), Bedia has constructed a shrine to his syncretic vision. A silhouetted torso with elongated arms stretches from a corner to fill the adjoining walls. Three oversize bamboo crutches lean against the mural as if supporting the paint-splattered figure. The crutches are an emblem of the leprous San Lazarus, venerated in Cuba for his healing powers, but the figure also incorporates such related deities as Babaluaye (central to the Santería faith) and Obaluaiye (from Yoruba tradition).

At Nosei and Galeria Ramis Barquet (41 East 57th Street, through July 17), Bedia's mantis-like figures also populate drawings on amate, a rough bark paper, and large paintings on shaped black canvases. Equally influenced by Paleolithic cave drawings, graffiti, and action figures, Bedia's paintings often link animals and humans as spiritual partners. No puedo retenerte más, at Ramis Barquet, is a circular black canvas filled by a figure with a canine head restraining a bird whose wings spread to circumscribe the night sky.

For the uninitiated, Bedia's narratives are ambiguous. But even gringos will get the redolence of his art, and be knocked over by his spare graphic line. For those engaged in his spiritual journey, Bedia is a teacher who readily blurs the boundaries of art, faith, and geography.

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