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In this essay, Randall Morris contextualizes the production of Juan Boza in relationship to the U.S. urban environment in which he was working. He notes that in contemporary western society religious art is often relegated to the margins but, as an artist-priest who worked in the U.S., Boza had the double responsibility of making the most out of “the world of the gallery” and “not lose authenticity in the temple.” Morris then comments on Boza’s altars influenced by Santería [an Afro-Cuban cult] and the “visual Cuban spiritual language” he helped advance. Additionally, Morris discusses Boza’s criticism about the religious components of Wifredo Lam’s work and concludes with comments on Boza’s premature death.
Juan Boza (1941–1991) was a Cuban-born artist and initiate of Santería, the most popular Afro-cult 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 religions that he interpreted artistically. This essay by Randall Morris appears in a chapter about the work of Juan Boza in the 1996 anthology, Santería Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art, edited by Arturo Lindsay. The chapter also includes excerpts from the artist's final statement in 1991 (see doc. No. 847660), an interview between Ricardo Viera and Boza (see doc. No. 847698), and an essay by Viera (see doc. No. 847679).