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Home FEATURES José Parlá Interview

José Parlá Interview
Written by Manuel Bello   
Tuesday, 28 October 2008 04:06
Brooklyn based artist José Parlá sits down with Manuel Bello and reflects on the complexities of his journey into the world of 'Segmented Realities' and more.

José Parlá is a Brooklyn based artist who was born in Miami Florida to Cuban exiles in the mid 70's. His journey into urban landscapes began in his teen years while exploring Miami Beach with his brother Rey. Over the years, José Parlá has developed a look and feel to his art that is, unmistakably his own, yet still beyond classification.

The intricate flowing layers of beautiful script, stacked collage, heavy textures, self-blended pigments, and who knows what else, are hypnotizing. Each piece tells a story that may never be fully revealed, which also creates the allure of the unknown within his work. Parlá describes his paintings as "Segmented Realities", in a way as if they exist before they actually reveal themselves on the canvas.

Having seen his works in person and in progress I can tell you how labor intensive his stuff is. His influences stretch from the urban decay of New York City around the globe and back again. I am happy to open a window into the "Segmented Realities" of José Parlá. -Manuel Bello

1_peoplesmigrations_POP-UP.jpg
People's Migrations and Their Movements. (Size: 4x14ft dyptich) *click for larger view

Has art always been a big part of your life and were you into art as a kid?

Yes, I was always drawing as a kid. I was always on the floor with all my markers and a notepad with toys on the side. I really liked to draw these mazes that in order to survive you would have to jump from place to place. Adventurous type of drawings, where if you didn't make a jump, you might get eaten by a shark or a trap door with nails would open up, stuff like that.

Between the Earthly and the Devine (Size: 4x6ft

Between the Earthly and the Devine (Detail)

What year did you start writing and painting?

It was 1983 when I started painting. Young kids and teenagers were painting walls, trucks, rooftops, anything and everything. A few years later, it was the time of the 1980s Hip-Hop coming out of Miami, the original Miami Bass music, and 2 Live Crew. Then in 1988 I received a scholarship to study at the Savannah College of Art & Design. I went off with all my self-taught ways on how to paint. In college I learned new methods that I began to combine into my work. Those are the years that I look back on as the beginning of painting for me. All the influences of those times still resonate with me in one way or another.

The City's Sontag

As we grow older our influences constantly change. Have your art influences changed, as you have grown older?

Everything does change with age, as you said. My influences in art come from life's many introductions to new conditions. Seeing new types of art can be mind expanding, just like visiting new cities and countries where one can absorb and observe new types of culture. Mostly through travel I've seen my influences grow.

5_Sign-of-the-Times-POP-UP.jpg
Sign of the Times *click for larger view

Hackney Canal-Rio Don Diego

Some of your work and script seems to be Asian influenced. How much has Asian culture influenced your work?

I have traveled to Asia at least twenty times, mostly to Japan and recently, Thailand and China. The influence I do receive from Asia is in terms of how I approach the work, and the way I let some things breath within the space. When one goes to a different culture, time after time, eventually that is going to influence the person. My script has been influenced by these experiences. Calligraphy and script are not the only focus of my work. They are elements and parts of my work that I use to draw with to show lines that carry meaning as symbols embedded with emotion.

Landscape in Shangri La

Seeing your work close up shows me how labor intensive it must be, care to shed some light on the process?

The process in my work is similar to that of the city. The work builds its foundation through memory. In order to create a good painting you must put a lot of history in the piece. With my work the details are within the layers. Each layer tells its own story. I do everything from collage, to using charcoal, oil and acrylic paints, pens, markers, aerosol, etc. I try to step away from myself and imagine the perspective of other people, the look and feel of other environments rather than just my own.

8_Brick-Lane-POP-UP.jpg
Brick Lane *click for larger view

International Hermetic Celestial Systems (6x9ft)

Would you say there is still a lot of experimentation in your work?

Yes there is a lot of experimentation. Each new work must be original, must be groundbreaking from my last one. In my show 'Adaptation / Translation', the works have really jumped somewhere new, a different "elsewhere" as I say. I used a lot of new materials and mixed my own paints and chalks and worked with pigments not available in the market that my biologist friend makes for me. I would say my studio is more like a laboratory.

House 2

11_Cambridge-Avenue-POP-UP.jpg
Cambridge Avenue *click for larger view

Does the work reflect periods of your life, darker works in darker times and vice-versa?

Definitely, both the good and the bad! A lot of the works that have layered white writing are all memory pieces; diary like. For example, 'Brothers Back to Back' started out as a piece about the musical influences that my brother Rey and I had growing up in Miami with Hip-Hop, Salsa, Reggae and all the old school Cuban music that my parents would listen to. As I painted this piece, the process triggered memories of all these things we went through together during the 1980s, both good and bad. When growing up we found ourselves in some dangerous situations and always protected each other. We always used that phrase, 'Brothers Back to Back'. If you are back to back you see what is coming at you from all directions. That piece is multi-layered, just as memories are. Another example would be 'Gemini', which was a piece I did right after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. If you look at it, the painting is from my view in Brooklyn and one can see how the smoke just billows across the sky. The base of the painting is an abstract collage of the map of the world. At the time I was thinking about the global effects of this horrific event and how all that smoke traveled the world by entering the atmosphere.

Brothers Back to Back

Gemini

How much of your work reflects social or political themes?

The piece I just mentioned deals with socio-political themes. I completed a new painting titled 'Los Sitios, Habana', based on Cuba and how not much has changed there in fifty years. In my recent works shown at the 'Memory Documents' exhibition, I also had several pieces that stemmed from political issues in Cuba. One piece was called 'Fifty Years and On & On & On'. I started this particular piece on the day Castro resigned and passed his power down to his brother Raul.

Los Sitios, Habana

Fifty Years and On & On & On

Recently you seem to be showing more in Europe, would you say the European market is becoming more receptive to your work in recent years?

I have had two solo shows in Europe and shown twice in different group shows. It is really just the beginning for me in Europe. Mostly my work has been shown in the U.S. and Japan, as well as China and Puerto Rico. As for the European market becoming more receptive, I'm not sure if its luck or not, but globally my work has been responded to pretty equally.

Verses from the Subversive

Does José Parlá have any famous last words?

Find your place in history.

Sunrise

Many thanks; to José and Rey Parlá for making the time.

If you are in London make sure to swing by Elms Lesters to see José Parla's latest show "Adaptation/Translation" which runs through November 8th and if you are in New York be sure to catch the opening on November 8th of "Layered Days" a solo show by José Parlá at Cristina Grajales. Fecal Face will be bringing you more on that as is drops. {moscomment}

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The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

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