Published by Damiani. Text by Henry Chalfant, Naiomy Guerrero. Interview by Manon Slome.
The latest paintings from American artist José Parlá (born 1973) evoke the artist's connection to the Bronx and address the suffering caused by redlining policies and displacement imposed by gentrification and systematic racism. The rich building-up of the surface and Parlá's signature gestural line resemble the layers of city walls, so that the paintings reflect the movement and textures of neighborhoods, the traces people leave behind and the energy of the streets.Parlá began painting on walls in Miami at the age of 10, signing his work with the tag "Ease." Supporting himself by designing album covers and concert flyers for hip hop artists, he moved to the Bronx. The title It's Yours is borrowed from a song by the influential Bronx rapper T-La Rock, who assured his fans that his work would always be about and for them. Similarly, Parlá offers this work back to the Bronx in tribute.
Grounded in Parlá’s personal first-generation Cuban American immigrant family story and an ever-evolving practice inspired by “elsewhere communities” and their contributions to America, Roots considers the relationship between local and family history and one’s past, present and future. A photograph of Parlá’s grandfather Agustin Parlá, one of Cuba’s first aviators, is the point of departure for the work—the aviator is an important source of inspiration for the artist as he undertakes his own border crossings, exploring how multicultural environments impact his perceptions of urban space. Published to accompany exhibitions at the National Young Arts Foundation and SCAD Museum of Art, both being something of a homecoming for the Brooklyn-based artist—a SCAD painting alumnus—Roots surveys a recent body of Parlá’s painting and sculpture.