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José Parlá

José Parlá Artist Statement

Historically, walls have exhibited the voice of the people.  My earliest paintings were made on walls at night. My thought and impulse behind the gesture was as primitive as that of cavemen marking and drawing in their dwellings to assert their existence in a place and time.  As my works evolved, be it paintings, signatures, or even the documentation of these early ephemeral artworks throughout city walls, the works took on the nature of personal journals based on empirical experiences. The organized black books and photo albums also became my diaries. This style of art became an influential subculture in many of the places I have traveled to and inspired the aesthetic in my cityscape paintings.

During the beginning, this was an art that was not accepted by society because it was seen as destructive, rebellious, and anarchic. I felt a challenge to present art that originally existed outdoors—inside, like art displayed in museums, and this was an interesting problem for me that needed a solution.  I wanted to create works that retained their roots. My new paintings could not abandon their environment.  I then embarked on a journey to search out in detail the dialogue of decaying walls, the marks on them, and what it all meant to me.  This would lead the paintings to become memory documents.  As a result, these works are time capsules, mixed documents of memory and research; part performance, as I impersonate the characters that leave their marks on walls. Time is a part of these paintings as their creative process simulates the passing of time on city walls and their layers of history with layers of paint, posters, writing, and re-construction.  This process, like meditation, affirms my everlasting devotion to art as a form of spirituality, which exists in the present and pays homage to those who leave their traces behind.

Language, writing and seeing are linked at several levels in José Parlá’s semiotically inflected paintings: the distinction between image and text is consistently denied—image-as-text, text-as-picture—both modes are often overlapping and present in the same painting. This glimpse makes us aware that we are not mere passive bystanders, but active participants in the world we see, that our senses produce for us moment-to-moment.

José Parlá’s paintings are composed from several distinct types of source material: the purely abstract (painterly) dabbing, gesture and layering of paint; collaged materials and detritus from the streets of the world (and that may include type or other writing and images); writing, which is easily the dominant material of these works, filling and often obscuring its contents in successive layers. Rarely is this written material actually fully legible in any of his works, usually it lies at the boundary between abstract marking and calligraphy, complicated and obfuscated by the palimpsest process he employs throughout.

Parlá’s works have appeared in major exhibitions in London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris, and recently in Stages for the Livestrong Foundation at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris. Deitch Projects, New York, and OHWOW in Miami. Parlá’s solo show titled: Walls, Diaries, and Paintings at Bryce Wolkowitz in March 2011, which was accompanied by a new monograph published by Hatje Cantz.

His most recent exhibition Character Gestures, opened September 2011 in Los Angeles at the OHWOW gallery in West Hollywood. Parlá’s latest projects include a collaboration with French artist JR for the 11th Havana Biennial in Cuba entitled ” Wrinkles of the City”, a mural painting commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the new BAM FISHER Theatre in Brooklyn, the Parlá Frères exhibition with his brother Rey Parlá at the renowned Colette in Paris, an exhibition at SCAD MUSEUM in Savannah, Georgia with fellow alumni Wendy White entitled Performing Painting, and a public mural commissioned by the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn. Mr. Parlá is also part of the advisory board of No Longer Empty.

Other collections include: The British Museum, London, UK, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, US, The Concord Project, City of Toronto, Canada, and the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

José Parlá studied painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, and The New World School of the Arts in Miami, and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

“Like Gerhard Richter, Parlá sees our art-historical notions of abstraction and abstract expressionism as having inextricably and poetically woven themselves in our contemporary understanding of the real, the authentic, the dramatic, the historic, the classic, the modern, the global, the magical, the African, the human.” – Greg Tate

“Parlá concentrates on the problems inherent in the change of context from the street to the galleries that few of the old school writers had successfully negotiated. A notable exception is, of course, SAMO, who later painted under his given name, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Parlá’s work takes off from and expands on these roots.” – Joan Waltemath for the Brooklyn Rail

“Caught very much in the moment, Parlá’s time is always transitory, a measure of echoes rather than certainties, a resonance of history where absence constitutes a more formidable presence than anything so shiny and new as the present.” – Carlo McCormick Contemplating the Storm. 2011.

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