Between September 12 and October 31, 2015, 24th street of Chelsea in New York received an exhibition in two parts by artist José Parlá entitled Surface Body/Action Space, the fi rst of them in the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery and, the second, in the Mary Boone Gallery. With this double exhibition in acknowledged spaces of the famous New York district, Parlá, who already enjoys recognition in the North American art circuit, establishes himself as a safe value in the international art market. Born in Miami from Cuban parents, in 2012 he made himself known in Cuba by the project Wrinkles of the City/Arrugas de la ciudad, which he made in collaboration with French artist JR for the Havana Biennial.
Both exhibitions in Chelsea have a similar structure: on the walls, canvases of various sizes, mainly of large format and, in the space, an installation composed by works that are recreations of wall segments, on whose bases dust and parts which seem to have fallen from them have been placed in a more or less uniform way. Parlá’s work is generally based on urban experience, the visualization of the partitions and walls of the city, as well as the typical restlessness of graffiti culture. Thus the canvases exhibited imitate the coarse and porous texture of walls exposed to the elements or that have suffered the pass and the inclemency of the weather which, in some cases, merges with unintelligible calligraphies of stylized traits. This last element is an individual mark the artist has developed and is reiterated in many of his works, turning into a rubric indebted to the spontaneity of graphic writing. The works are made layer by layer seeking to emulate the processes of transformation these walls suffer in their natural environment. Sculptures, which in former texts on similar pieces by the artist have been classified as “sculptural paintings”, function the same way and are based on the same principle of superposition of paint layers, writing, décollage, and so on… On the walls and on some canvases, the calligraphy typical of the artist mixes with the writing of texts as names, sentences or nicknames in the manner of the popular graffiti made by common people on any surface on which it may be possible to write or scrape with the purpose of leaving an imprint, killing the boredom or expressing something publicly. But Parlá’s walls, differently from the real ones, exhibit a harmonic and vibrant coloring as well as a composition balance that turn them into a pretext for an abstract pictorial display.