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In this short text, Ricardo Viera looks at the work of Cuban artist Juan Boza, following his immigration to the United States, and transition from “science fiction” based work to art based on Santería. Viera opens this essay with a discussion of the untimely death of Boza and the fact that the Borough of Brooklyn (New York) appropriated Boza’s production since he did not have a will or local relatives. Viera then discusses Boza’s installation-based work, focusing on a piece from 1989, The Sounds of Water, to discuss how he incorporated objects from daily life into his works dedicated to the Afro-Cuban orishas [gods from Yoruba culture]. Viera points out: “Boza orchestrated his installations as a theatrical performance of sorts with very serious ceremonial intent.” He then explains that Boza’s two-dimensional works depict elements from symbols of the [Afro-Cuban men’s initiatory fraternity] Abakuá or specific orishas. Viera concludes by noting that Boza’s work calls for further study.
Artist and curator Ricardo Viera was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1945. Since 1974 he has lived in Pennsylvania where he is director and curator of the Lehigh University Art Galleries (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania). Juan Boza (1941–1991) was a Cuban-born artist and initiate of Santería, the most popular Afro-religion in Cuba. He immigrated to the United States in 1980 as part of the Mariel boatlift. Once in New York, his work began to focus on Afro-Cuban based religions that he interpreted artistically. This text appears in a chapter about the 1996 anthology on Boza’s work, Santería Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art, edited by Arturo Lindsay. The chapter also includes excerpts from the artist's final statement registered in 1991 (see doc. no. 847660); an interview between by Viera himself and Boza (see doc. no. 847698); and an essay by Randall Morris (see doc. no. 847786).