José Parlá Writes His Diary on the Wall

For his current show at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in Chelsea, José Parlá’s new paintings make you feel as if you were standing on a cold windy elevated Brooklyn subway platform waiting for a hulking rusted behemoth to scrape and scream around the curvature of the tracks toward you.


José Parlá (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Concentrate solely on the canvases in front of you and you might even hear the heroes of the railyards approaching. Like Ginsberg with no rhyme but a lot of reason Mr. Parlá’s poetic abstractions gently draw the viewer in for a close inspection.

“The whole blear world of smoke and twisted steel around my head in a railroad car, and my mind wandering past the rust into futurity: I saw the sun go down in a carnal and primeval world, leaving darkness to cover my railroad train because the other side of the world was waiting for dawn.”
Allen Ginsberg


José Parlá (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Using a color palette of red, ochre, black and gray he mashes the colors with bold textures and exquisite, sinuous lines. Eroded, tattered surfaces and found objects are canvas to markers, aerosol, even charcoal. The gestural markings and strokes recall a hip-hop romance now abstract and calligraphic: some layers evoking a dark Mexican Baroque wooden altar, carved and gold leafed.brooklyn-street-art-jose-parla-bryce-wolkowitz-gallery-jaime-rojo-03-11-web-2

José Parlá. Detail  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mr. Parlá trained in the 1980s on the streets as a graffiti artist – and all of these elements exist elsewhere in the urban jungle, but Parlá has developed his own language to tell his story with these tools.  Born in rebellion, the energy of his movement across the canvas is just as badass as any tunnel writer but with a timbre and depth that age and self-study can render.


José Parlá (photo © Jaime Rojo)


José Parlá. Detail (photo © Jaime Rojo)


José Parlá (photo © Jaime Rojo)


José Parlá (photo © Jaime Rojo)


José Parlá (photo © Jaime Rojo)


José Parlá (photo © Jaime Rojo)


José Parlá. Detail (photo © Jaime Rojo)


José Parlá. Close up of the painted hall wall. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


José Parlá (photo © Jaime Rojo)

At the show opening last Thursday an ad hoc duo of drummers set up shop outside the gallery and an air of raucous carnival and merriment permeated the night. A demanding New Yorker stopped to inquire just how long they would continue. The musicians gently answered her questions and banged away. Walking away from the spot their beats disappeared into the cold night.


Photo © Jaime Rojo

“Wall Diaries and Paintings”, José Parlá

Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery from March 3rd to April 16th