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Jose Parla  New York, NY

'Wild Child Hand Style'
Acrylic on canvas
'The Night of Saint Germain des Pres'
Plaster, ink, acrylic and oil paint, enamel, on wood

* All images used with permission. Please do not distribute without first contacting the artist.

About Jose

My work is inspired by the anonymous art found in the streets. The art is often in the form of calligraphy or the actions of torn and stripped posters. The inscriptions in my work are used as a form of drawing, and to maintain a record of my observations.

In my travels I have encountered a similar dialogue that takes place in most cities. I find compositions on surfaces of deteriorated walls, and remnants of construction markings. In my paintings I create layers and textures representing the age of memories collected through different periods of my life.
Evidence is left on walls by fleeting creators both aware of their message, and oblivious to what I may find in their signs. Still, they remain mostly unidentified.
When working on my paintings I imagine different people are making choices to write, paint, or destroy the surfaces. To do this I employ techniques to age my work, adopting materials normally used in construction.

Recommended by our guest curators

Greg Gossel

Minneapolis, MN artist

"I love the scale, textures, and use of found materials in José Parlá's work. His process of layering and decay creates a fantastic depth and richness to each piece."

Jose appears in the following Top 10 lists


'New York'



10 of 30 reactions displayed

"Very cool. Love the energy and emotion."


"A great use of color that shows the raw, gritty, urban streets. I enjoy the selections and would like to see more!"

"Drew me in...creative and in your face!"

"José Parlá: Layered Daysby Joan WaltemathThe antipode of Babel.José Parlá?s first New York solo exhibition is on the fourth floor of an old Soho loft building; a manually operated freight elevator takes you up to a space that has been cleared of its usual offering of furniture to make room for his paintings, works on paper and ceramics.Parlá began his career writing on the streets of Miami, with the occasional jaunt up to New York City to join in what was going on in the boroughs at the height of the graffiti movement. ?Soho, Manhattan, Circa 1981,? a four-by-six-foot canvas painted in 2008, acknowledges the ?old school? writers Parlá was too young to truly be part of, yet from whom he nevertheless learned volumes as he watched their forays into the commercial art world of the 80s. To his credit, Parlá concentrated 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.In ?Reverberations of Yajé,? like many of Parlá?s works, we tend to read a group of calligraphic lines, hovering at the top of the painting, from right to left like Arabic or Hebrew, yet it is unclear whether they could actually be read by a native speaker or are a recreation of the style. Below these marks, a vast space opens up, and with the awareness that these pieces were painted as reflections of Parlá?s recent journey to the Colombian jungle, the color and forms fall into place as part of an extended undergrowth with the calligraphic marks serving as a canopy. Time serves to open up the volumes in Parlá?s work, and after a while you can believe you?re hearing the sounds of birds as the world outside this 6' - 12' canvas falls away.Another piece in this exhibition, ?Taganga, Colombia,? relates to the Colombia journey, though this one, like most of the others, is in response to an urban condition. Parlá not only photographs the layered graffiti-covered walls in his neighborhoods, but has photographed walls in China, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Cuba as well. These images serve both as notebook and inspiration for his larger works, which tend to recreate the palimpsest of the billboard or other urban surfaces as a tabula rasa for his mark making.?Layered Days,? the title piece of the show, does well to capture the density of contemporary life, the manifold connections and multiple agendas that make up any given day. Like many of Parlá?s paintings, the space that opens up in them is underneath?a hesitant reality that hovers below the surface, partly visible and partly not. The surfaces are by turns matte and reminiscent of Tapies, and then gritty with a sheen that speaks of the layers of grime we live in and around. Parlá celebrates the least intervention of the human touch.On the far wall of the Soho space Parlá has constructed an altar in honor of his ancestors. Using photographs and paintings, memorabilia and drawings, Parlá makes it clear that he sees his project as part of something larger than an individual artist?s drive to become marketable. He takes image after image of his ancestors, some serious, some hilarious, and enshrines them on the wall together with some African sculptures and vases he made recently in Italy. They weave a context for Parlá?s movements, tracing his family history from Lebanon to Cuba to the US and now, with José and his brother Rey?s Grand Tour of China and Tibet, the Far East.One might be inclined to think of Mark Tobey or Cy Twombly when looking at Parlá?s work, but the relationship is more one of a common source of inspiration than any actual link between the artists? works. Starting from his broad, sweeping, tagging gestures, Parlá has dug into history and familiarized himself with the traditions of calligraphy from Asia to the Middle East. While Parlá?s gesture hovers on the edge of communicability as an understandable language, it raises the question of whether the visual or written language will take precedence. One feels his need to get to the bottom of things, to touch the origins of our impulse towards mark making?an impulse that lies at the root of both the line and the calligraphic gesture.Tracing things back to their point of origin also enables Parlá to project forward, with a look at the similarities underlying various calligraphic scripts and their common ground among young graffiti writers around the world?who all speak the same language with their tags. After the pieces had a chance to unfold, I began to sense that they are cast in a future tense. It is as if Parlá is already speaking of a time when all the languages of Babel will return to one. His utter confidence and bravado in writing this universal script are almost enough to convince one of the possibility of its occurrence."

"i find this very interesting how this is strikin to some and others call it something out of its charachter. this is art done to me in memory of things seens and the entire poerspective, the way it his off when one "tagger" goes over anothers work. there is lots of history behind each small "vandalization". but this conveys as a message repeated and deleted> good stuff guy keep it up and try layers of larger print,make it look like it might actually be a photo. great idea for a tag artist thats wants to go legit tho."

"web site to complicated. work is good complicted. need time to contemplate."

"for me, not enough colors used, it just dosent pop for me. i see where hes going with it but certinly not something i would hang on my walli dont want to dis the art, me myself being one, it dose have expestion but theres just a bit too much going on, theres no focal point. but i dont want him to stop i am only one opinion amoung many"

"dont enjoy it it has no meaning or feeling whatsoever"

"and further more, what??? its like no other graffiti, thats not the point and its like all other graffiti, do you even read the statement, this is a compilation of graffiti found in streets, just shows how much the media used to show the art matters. Its a fine art commentary of the ignored art of graffiti and its aesthetic"

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