Jose Parla Show

Jose Parla Studio

Shots from Jose Parla’s Brooklyn studio, where he is wrapping up a series of new paintings for a solo show at Miami’s Art Basel convention, December 6-10.

Info.Image: Super Touch



    Miami native, José Parlá, returns to the Magic City for solo debut art show.

    CITYSCAPES: JOSÉ PARLÁ curated by Manon Slome of The Chelsea Art Museum.

    Spoonfed is proud to present Miami native, New York based artist José Parlá for his Miami solo debut and book launch (pre-opening) December 6th, 2006 from 6pm – 1am and reception Dec, 8th from 6pm 10pm at The Mitchell Rubenstein’s Park Avenue Loft located in the middle of South Beach and the Art Deco District one block from the Bass Museum of Art: 2228 Park Avenue Miami Beach, FL 33139. Tel: 305.637.3750.

    Miami, December 2006 − “CITYSCAPES” marks Parlá’s first Miami solo exhibition.

    José Parlá’s paintings are immediately powerful with a swaying rhythm and an unruly soulfulness that embraces rather than overwhelms; at once balanced and complex, both mysterious and deeply lyrical, abstract and intensely literal. His images occupy vast spaces filled with windswept clouds, commercial poster fragments, and remembered architecture while stylized calligraphic writings introduce grace and tension as a distinctly human gesture. The compositions are often mounted or executed directly on wood panel, and the solidity of this foundation gives warmth and mass to the paintings, upholding the illusion of the spaces they describe. José works on a large scale using materials and methods of architectural construction—cement, wood and vinyl—as well as traditional art incorporating paper, paint, powdered dye, wax, and ink. Parlá’s expert, passionate brushwork and subtly shifting palettes resolve themselves into walls, tags, skies and sidewalks, as seen through the veils of time and memory. When discussing the work he often uses terms like synthetic and segmented, referring to the world’s cities as virtual palimpsests, upon which are recorded in literal, figurative and ongoing layering process of the personal histories of countless anonymous passersby.

    Though still quite young, the conceptual passions that would become the foundation of Parlá’s voice as an artist have been on his mind since he was a child. Born in Miami into a family of Cuban exiles, Parlá moved to Puerto Rico at an early age before returning to Miami when he was nine. He currently lives and works in New York, and only recently traveled to Cuba for the first time. His life, like his work, is therefore at once extremely particular and generally reflective of the wanderings of today’s urban populations. Moving was never a simple question of packing his bags. Instead, he augmented his aesthetic observations with an analytical, almost sociological perspective on the cities in which he lingered and through which he walked and continues to walk.

    Parlá was awarded the Francis McCommon Scholarship to the Savannah College of Art & Design, Georgia in 1989. At New World School of the Arts he studied Advanced Painting with Mel Alexemberg. He has exhibited locally and internationally from Miami, Los Angeles, New York to Paris and Tokyo. His work is featured in the collections of Agnes B., Tom Ford, Katy Barker, and has been published in various publications such as Tokion, Booth Clibborn’s 718 Brooklyn Style, Juxtapoz, BLK/MRKT’s One (Die Gestalten) and The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Parlá was selected by Manon Slome to exhibit his work with Mimmo Rotella at the Chelsea Art Museum in New York in 2004. José was recently invited to exhibit his work and lecture on painting and printmaking classes at Whitworth College and MAC Museum in Spokane, Washington.


    | | Al Moran @ Spoonfed |
    | |
    | | José Parlá |

    José Parlá | Copyright | Artists Rights Society | New York | All Rights Reserved © 2006

  2. Innovative Storyteller

    by Carrie Scozzaro

    Calling Jose Parla a graffiti artist would not be entirely off the wall. Sure, he uses spray paint and the distinctive lettering style found on underpasses and concrete walls — bubble lettering, bold perspective letters and the newer, enigmatic wildstyle. But Parla is more than just a graffiti artist, a moniker that perpetuates the supposed schism between “high” and “low” art. Instead, consider Parla a novelist with an unusual method of storytelling.

    Parla’s images read like an urban travel history, incorporating the work of “writers” (aka street artists) that he experiences during his forays into various concrete jungles. Using aging techniques to suggest typical urban walls — painted on, written on, scribbled out, painted over, covered with handbills — Parla recreates a sense of place. Miami (where he was raised) and New York City (where he now lives) are featured destinations. Each urban space and the artwork it inspires is a product of prior travelers (taggers) whose indelible marks Parla may incorporate into his paintings.

    Yet sooner than Parla can capture the essence of a place, it has already changed: A new tagger has left his mark, obliterated the old, rewritten history… for the moment. Graffiti stories have no beginnings, no ends; they’re never told the same way twice.

    Thus it is a story of street culture: nameless, faceless writers whose words are sometimes indistinguishable to the audiences who are gaining appreciation for Parla’s work. “The Run Kid,” for example, is the only recognizable lettering in “Run Kid,” a 4-foot-square painting in ochres, black splotches and muted values. (For all I can tell, it could be saying “arts writers are idiots.”)

    This contextual irony (storytelling that isn’t being read) isn’t lost on Parla, who no doubt knows his Pop Art history. He knows all about Jean-Michel Basquiat, the tagger known as Samo. When Basquiat became Andy Warhol’s prodigy, the art world went gonzo (while nonetheless remaining perplexed at Basquiat’s scribbles and seemingly arbitrary markmaking). Also during the 1980’s, Keith Haring was drawing chalk cartoons on the black paper covering subway advertising panels (technically defacing public property). He parlayed his designs into a thriving shop selling T-shirts while at the same time wowing the art world at the ultra-hip Tony Schafrazi Gallery and a variety of international Biennale exhibits.

    Similarly, Parla transforms and capitalizes on something that’s often dismissed as not art-worthy. Graffiti is generally valued only to the degree that city leaders are willing to pay to stop it, cover it up and punish the people who put the images on their shiny new walls. Moreover, it’s often considered vandalism by the same segment of the population who are now shelling out big bucks for Parla’s artwork. More irony.

    As much as Parla tells the stories of others, he also tells his own story: born to a family of Cuban exiles in Miami, lived in Puerto Rico, then Miami, then traveled a lot. He went to art school in the ’80s and now lives in New York. He began showing in the late ’90s, frequently at the Modern Primitive gallery, and began to develop the concept of “segmented realities” or “memory documents” of his travels.

    Soon Parla was showing with masters like Lee Quinones and at locations throughout New York, including the reputable Chelsea Museum alongside European pioneer Mimmo Rotella, whose ’60s-era style included working with graffiti and torn posters. Parla began exhibiting in Japan — where graffiti art is huge — as well as booking commercial gigs with folks like Nike. His custom-painted clothing commemorating Los Angeles-based shoe designer UNDFTD is featured in Juxtapoz magazine. His work has appeared in the Miami Herald, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and in Rolling Stone.

    And during the first week of October, Parla will be artist in residence at Whitworth College’s Koehler Gallery. Associate Professor of Art Scott Kolbo, who directs the gallery and is a respected printmaker in his own right, deserves kudos for bringing a cutting-edge artist like Parla to Spokane. In addition to videos, photos, prints and paintings in the gallery, Parla will create a painting for Whitworth’s permanent collection and teach a printing workshop (the proceeds of which will help fund future residencies).

    Kolbo’s description of Parla’s work as “expressionist” is spot-on. His colors are Arshile Gorky — deep reds, earth tones, black, muted grays — with aerosol blooms like Helen Frankenthaler, pale ochre and sky blue. Parla expresses an energy similar to Jackson Pollock’s action paintings, including the element of the subconscious markmaking that informed them. Consider too Parla’s exhibition title, “The Mystic Writing Pad,” which derives from Freud’s catalog of psychological terms. According to Freud, “The surface of the Mystic Pad is clear of writing and once more capable of receiving impressions … If we imagine one hand writing upon the surface of the Mystic Writing Pad while another periodically raises its covering-sheet from the slab, we shall have a concrete representation of the way I tried to picture the functioning of the perceptual apparatus of our mind.”

    Parla describes his work as “a contemporary palimpsest,” referring to writing material, usually parchment, which has been used over and over, even after the original writing has been erased — a form of the mystic pad. For Parla, the creation of each painting documents the process of becoming: a story within (or on top of) a story, on top of another story, ad infinitum. Layers of reality frozen, like film cels, and released, recycled. Graffiti-like surfaces are not what they appear to be. There is more to them — and to Parla — than meets the eye.


    Ooi Botos Gallery is pleased to announce Reading Through Seeing, an exhibition by contemporary artist José Parlá, on view 14 May through 11 July 2009. This will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong and will showcase new paintings, works on paper, photographs and ceramic works. The exhibition will take place during Art HK 09 and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by scholars Alexandra Chang of New York University — Asia Pacific Center and critical theorist and art historian Michael Betancourt.

    José Parlá’s new works are inspired by his recent travels in France, Japan and the United Kingdom. Parlá’s unique and playful inscriptions and diary-like gestures with his trademark hand–writing recall his personal observations of how the idiosyncratic behavior of anonymous individuals on those distant streets distinctly impact each geographical environment.

    The complexity of José Parlá’s mixed media paintings is based on the layering of images and paraphernalia collected from his daily encounters at home and his adventures abroad, interpreted through his dynamic gestural process. Interleaved through each work is Parlá’s calligraphic script, which infuses each piece with vibrancy, energy and meaning.

    Memories, thoughts, ideas, quotes, phrases, conversations and observations scrawled in Parlá’s instantly recognizable, flowing script reflect his characteristic fusion of writing and painting, word and image. His brushwork depicts walls in the city, or in rural areas outside of urban centers, while his mélange of imagery and words hint at stories within stories, an evocation of the places that have deeply affected him.

    The story-telling nature of José Parlá’s work is mesmerizing. At first glance, his paintings are reminiscent of an abandoned street alley, but as one’s eyes linger, one realizes the density and complexity of overflowing imagery. Parlá’s innate gift of capturing both the chaos and the tranquility of the city has moved countless viewers.

    About José Parlá

    José Parlá is a New-York based artist whose paintings reflect the way in which cities function as palimpsests. Born in Miami, Parlá traveled in the Caribbean, South America, Asia and Europe in the 1990s before settling permanently in New York. His work has been collected and exhibited by Agnes B. Galerie Du Jour in Paris and Takashi Murakami’s Kai Kai Ki Ki gallery in Tokyo. Major recent exhibitions include, The New Grand Tour showing in Hong Kong and Beijing (2007-08), Adaptation / Translation at Elms Lesters Painting Rooms in London (2008), and Layered Days with Cristina Grajales’ Soho gallery in New York City (2008).

    About Ooi Botos Gallery

    Ooi Botos is Hong Kong’s leading avant-garde gallery specializing in photography, digital media, video and installation. In fact, the José Parlá exhibition marks a departure from Ooi Botos’ customary program, with Parlá being the only painter represented by the gallery. Ooi Botos is dedicated to exposing the public to art forms rarely seen in Hong Kong to raise the level of discourse about art in Asia.

    Ooi Botos is located at 5 Gresson Street, Wanchai, Hong Kong.

    Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Friday 11.30 A.M. – 3 P.M. and 6 P.M. – 8 P.M., Saturday 11 A.M. – 6 P.M.

    Tel. +852 2527 9733

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