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Bani Abidi: ‘What you see in my films is what I know’ Ocula Conversation Bani Abidi: ‘What you see in my films is what I know’

A group of voices accompanies me in the exhibition. They are singing words I cannot comprehend, yet the warm tunes are familiar: folk songs, love songs, songs of longing. There are letters, too. They speak of the quotidian details of a soldier's life: the hardness of the war, sending money to the family, and longing for familiar landscapes, food,...

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Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future Ocula Report Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future 11 Oct 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

There has been a flurry of triennial and biennial art activity in Japan this year. The Aichi Triennale opened in Nagoya this August, sparking a national debate about the shutting down of a display of formerly censored works—the result of public backlash against a burnt image of Emperor Hirohito and a statue commemorating the women forced into...

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Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum Ocula Insight | Video Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum 16 August 2019

Mark Bradford walks through Mark Bradford: Los Angeles Mark Bradford: Los Angeles at the Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai (27 July–13 October 2019) is the artist's largest solo exhibition to date in China. In this video for Ocula, Bradford and Diana Nawi, curator of the show, walk through selected works that convey the artist's concerns with...

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José Parlá

b. 1973, USA

Brooklyn-based artist José Parlá explores how time and urban identities are imprinted on architecture through paintings, prints, and large-scale painted murals that combine elements of graffiti, calligraphy, Abstract Expressionism, and collage. He also contemplates urban landscapes through sculpture, installations, photography, and video.

Born in Miami in 1973, Parlá began painting graffiti on city walls while a child. When only 16, he received a scholarship to study painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design, continuing his studies at Miami Dade Community College and New World School of the Arts, Miami. During the development of his career, he began combining graffiti with fine-art genres of calligraphy and 1950s Abstract Modernism—particularly Cy Twombly's freely visually expressive texts and Pollock's rhythmic dribbling technique.

Through Parlá's works, the artist tells stories about the urban cultures and people of the cities he has visited—including Miami, Brooklyn, Havana, London, Tokyo, Istanbul, and Hong Kong. He focuses closely on walls in urban settings, mimicking those encrusted with decades of posters, graffiti, weathering effects, and structural deterioration. He admires thickly layered encrustations of posters that read like palimpsests—surfaces that bear layers of torn printed paper from each ensuing generation. Exhibitions such as José Parlá: Segmented Realities (2015, High Museum of Art, Atlanta) recreate these walls in three dimension.

Parlá sources old posters from city streets, incorporating them into his paintings, writing over them relevant words that are, in turn, covered by thickly textured coloured splashes to evoke the visual characteristics of the source. His Twombly-like lines connect disparate elements, pulling them across time into a conceptual map of each particular urban space. The artist often pursues social causes in his artwork, highlighting location-specific inequalities and preserving what remains of urban histories on city walls before they are cleaned and white-washed by gentrification.

Parlá has exhibited in galleries and public spaces across the United States and internationally. His artworks feature in public and private collections that include the National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana; the British Museum, London; and the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone, Japan. In 2012 he worked on a collaboration with anonymous artist JR that was selected for the 11th Havana Biennial (2012), and since 2017 he has exhibited with Ben Brown Fine Arts at Art Basel in Hong Kong. He has also painted several large murals for public spaces, most notably One: Union of the Senses (2014) for the lobby of One World Trade Center.

Biography by Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2019
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Featured Artworks

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Mirrors, Italy by José Parlá contemporary artwork
José ParláMirrors, Italy, 2017 Acrylic, gel medium, gesso, enamel and plaster on canvas
182.9 x 365.8 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
Getting Up and Breaking Down Walls by José Parlá contemporary artwork
José ParláGetting Up and Breaking Down Walls, 2019 Acrylic, oil paint, collage, enamel and plaster on canvas
101.6 x 152.4 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
Anywhere Fragment by José Parlá contemporary artwork
José ParláAnywhere Fragment, 2019 Acrylic and plaster on wood
91.8 x 60.3 x 26 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
Could Be The Same Place by José Parlá contemporary artwork
José ParláCould Be The Same Place, 2019 Acrylic and plaster on wood
56.2 x 45.7 x 30.5 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
Verona Street Redhook by José Parlá contemporary artwork
José ParláVerona Street Redhook, 2019 Acrylic, oil paint, collage, enamel and plaster on canvas
101.6 x 152.4 x 5.7 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
Painting as Geomorphology by José Parlá contemporary artwork
José ParláPainting as Geomorphology, 2019 Acrylic, oil paint, collage, enamel and plaster on canvas
182.9 x 274.3 x 5.1 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
Echo of Impressions by José Parlá contemporary artwork
José ParláEcho of Impressions, 2018 Acrylic, ink, enamel, paper and plaster on canvas, 2 panels
182.9 x 457.2 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
Survival Mathematics by José Parlá contemporary artwork
José ParláSurvival Mathematics, 2018 Acrylic, oil ink, paper and plaster on canvas
121.9 x 182.9 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts

Current & Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, José Parlá, Textures of Memory at Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong
Open Now
19 September–4 November 2019 José Parlá Textures of Memory Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, José Parlá:, Echo of  Impressions at Ben Brown Fine Arts, London
Closed
3 October–9 November 2018 José Parlá: Echo of Impressions Ben Brown Fine Arts, London

Represented By

In Related Press

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Artist José Parlá on creating public art that really means something Related Press Artist José Parlá on creating public art that really means something Dazed : 31 July 2019

José Parlá's paintings have no words, yet they speak volumes. Born in Miami, Florida, Parlá's family relocated to Puerto Rico soon after but returned to the "Magic City" when he was ten. It was there that he witnessed the burgeoning of hip hop and breakdancing scenes, as well as the explosion of graffiti culture. Pairing this with a...

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Inside José Parlá's Snøhetta-Designed Studio Before His Major Solo Exhibition Related Press Inside José Parlá's Snøhetta-Designed Studio Before His Major Solo Exhibition Architectural Digest : 24 April 2019

Both in his life and his work, José Parlá is the very embodiment of a palimpsest. Amiable and kind on the surface, but scratch a little deeper and there's a lifetime of experiences bubbling, memories of obstacles overcome to achieve artistic success. Much like his life, Parlá's work is layered and verging on the third dimension.

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CONVERSATIONS As Above, So Below: José Parlá Related Press CONVERSATIONS As Above, So Below: José Parlá Mousse Magazine : 1 November 2017

On the occasion of Mirrors, his first solo show in Italy (currently on view at Brand New Gallery in Milan), artist José Parlá reflects upon the influences of the object trouvé on his latest artistic production.

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New work by José Parlá unveiled at New York's ICC with RxArt Related Press New work by José Parlá unveiled at New York's ICC with RxArt Whitewall Magazine : 10 August 2016

Yesterday, in partnership with RxArt, a new work by artist José Parlá was unveiled at the Incarnation Children’s Center (ICC), New York City’s only skilled nursing facility providing specialized care for children and adolescents living with HIV/AIDS. The event also marked the kicking-off Kiehl’s charitable motorcycle ride.

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In Video & Audio

JOSÉ PARLÁ Related Video & Audio JOSÉ PARLÁ Landmarks UT : 29 January 2018

A video about José Parlá's Amistad América, commissioned by Landmarks for The University of Texas at Austin. Featuring insights from the artist.

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What's Good with Stretch & Bobbito: Jose Parla Related Video & Audio What's Good with Stretch & Bobbito: Jose Parla npr : 19 September 2017

Artist Jose Parla joins the guys to talk about Cuba, taking graffiti seriously as an artform, and the joy of digging up old music.

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