INSTINCTS by José Parlá: A Topography of Memory


José Parlá is world renowned for bringing the energy and heart of "street art" to canvas, with works everywhere from the New World Trade Center to The British Museum in London. Globe-trotting and vibrant energy is nothing new to this Cuban, Miami-born artist. Raised in Puerto Rico and Miami, Parlá started creating at a young age, moving from drawing to painting on street walls, or writing. His unwavering drive to illuminate the beauty of writing, transforming it in the public mind from vandalism to true art. This show is no different, the bright colors commonly seen in graffiti cover dynamic canvasses illustrating topography of memories. In INSTINCTS, the viewer's interpretation gives the show its meaning, with each interpretation unique to the viewer. Memory. Time. Poetry. The title of each piece serves to guide the viewer through the show. Just as the walls of his youth functioned as palimpsests, the canvases in this show transformed with time. Creating the paintings simultaneously, Parlá used elements of each work in the other, even adding dried paint to his freestanding sculptural works. His presence in Dallas is widely welcomed, bringing high-energy pieces which prompt the viewer to look inward. Parlá has been an artist to watch for years, and he shows no signs of stopping. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him to gain a deeper understanding of his inspirations, process, and future projects.

INSTINCTS is the inaugural show at The Goss-Michael Foundation's new location, on view through November 11th. For more information click here.

1. How did you first start creating art? What was the driving force behind it?

My art making days started when I was around 5 years old when I became interested in drawing maps and mazes. The driving force could be identified as the love for art that existed in my family. My father was a film student and loved art and my mother originally taught me how to draw and my brother Rey who loves photography and experimenting with paint introduced me to the underground art of painting on walls, what we called writing back in those days.

2. What was the inspiration behind INSTINCTS?

INSTINCTS is inspired by words feelings drawn by words important to me at the time. Love, Place, Memory, History, Union, Poetry, and Time. I first wanted to make paintings in direct visual reaction to those words and what I feel from thinking of that while I paint. Secondly, I produced two sculptures, Modern / Ancient, and Changed Space. The sculptures and paintings all abstractions of the words that set up their creation. However retain the feeling of a real experience and place portrayed by the color, my imagination, and textures that allude to life's condition.

3. Were the pieces created simultaneously, or did you work on each separately?

Everything in the show was created simultaneously.

4. Although calligraphy is seen in some pieces of this show, it's much more subtle. Can you tell us more about your history with calligraphy, and its role within your works?

Calligraphy for me is a beautiful form of written drawing. When I began using stylistic writing as a teenager, it was more of a tool to write on walls, to write my name around the city. It was artistic and fun. Over the years, the calligraphy has become abstract and serves the purpose of signifier with a meaning that alludes syntax. The reader must use an emotional sensibility to adapt to its language.

5. You started creating art in the streets using graffiti, has your process changed now that you work on a more traditional canvas?

There are a lot of changes and differences between the streets and the studio. The process can be translated from outside into the canvas, for instance, speed and the style that I choose. I bring the energy from outdoors if I want to make the work more charged with intensity, or take the work into a more subtle path by imagining a whole new world that I am creating with paint. The experimental process can happen in both places....

6. What is the significance of the names of each piece?

The significance from the viewers perspective to the titles is up to how each person interprets the word with the visual.

My significance is freedom.

7. How should attendees view this show? What key element should they be aware of?

Be aware of everything. The key element to understanding any artist is time and research and getting to know what the artist has done before.

8. You're well-known for drawing inspiration from building walls in real life to illustrate in your pieces. Where did the material for the sculptures come from, and how are they connected to the paintings?

The materials for the sculptures are not from buildings in this case. These two sculptures we mentioned earlier are purely abstract works and because they are made from Instincts they are defined by their titles.

Modern / Ancient, and Changed Space.

9. How do you select the palate and colors for each piece or series?

The color in this project are purely mixed and specifically created from a Stream of Conscious Metamorphosis.

10. What should viewers take away after seeing INSTINCTS?

Anything the viewer wants and feels is up to them.

11. How has your work evolved over the years?

I've been painting a very long time, and the layers of my own history have evolved as I have as a person.

12. What are your upcoming projects?

This November and early December, I am working on a project titled Roots during Art Basel Miami Beach showing at Young Arts presented by Rolls Royce and The Savannah College of Art and Design.

Thank you to the incredible José Parlá for this interview, I highly recommend following him on Instagram (@joseParla), viewing his website, and purchasing his books.

To follow my art adventures, visit Instagram @czarina_ekaterina and @OurNewMonarch.

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