Biographical Dance of Combined Stories

Last week, I headed to Bryce Wolkowitz in Chelsea to chat with artist Jose Parla about his upcoming solo show. When I arrived Jose was busy attacking the front hallway of the gallery. The artist likened the space to an alleyway, one he had already begun to cover with a series of tags. Each signature had a story, a small remembrance of friends and writers from the past. Discussing the wall at hand, the artist smiled from ear to ear as he explained his homage with borrowed strokes of a paint marker.

A product of 80s Miami, Parla is possessed by the power of the paint encrusted street corner. There is an element of photorealism in his canvasses; each a re-exploration of a space once visited. The vivid and unruly paintings on display document and celebrate the beautiful underbelly of urban space. An avid traveler and long time resident of New York City, the artist pulls reference from a staggering mental and photographic data bank of urban facades. Brown tarnish mingles with the wriggling marks of phantom graffiti writers, conjured up from the depths of the artist’s mind. Each painting is a wall, each wall a port key to experience, a touch stone for memory. It is through this type of reflection that perception is given its layers. The artist speaks of painting as if it were theater; each work unfolding through a long process of remembrance. To ignore this is to ignore the high drama at play.

Dekalb Avenue Station

Order Pattern Organization Form and Relationship


Not given to generalizations or quick answers, the artist is drawn to complexity, and to “chaos”, something he mentions often. Both forces reign supreme among his new works. The new paintings are all large, befitting their performative nature; however they run a gamut of mood and tone. There is a palpable range of emotionality in “Walls Diaries and Paintings”. That said, Jose’s gestural calligraphy is by no means forthright. The artist paints using a personal vocabulary of text that weaves in and out of the decipherable. There is a formal wonder , especially in the black and white paintings, which keeps one at arm’s length. In his own words he describes this process “like a diary which you can lock with the turn of a key.”

This state of latency is a source of beautiful tension; the viewer is caught between quotation and reflection, between memory and the street. An overwhelming body of work, these latest paintings are not easily digested, and warrant more than one visit. The exhibition opens today, March 3rd, on 24th street. I will be there, you should be too.