Covid. A coma. A cerebral vascular accident. José Parlá comes back from the edge.
“Surfaces, whether walls, canvases or sculptural objects, function for him as palimpsests, and I think that’s where his practice as a writer, as a painter, these calligraphic marks and gestures have meaning,” said Michael Rooks, curator of modern and contemporary art at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and curator of the 2014 exhibition “José Parlá: Segmented Realities”, First major museum exhibition in Parlá.
“You can trace that impulse back to the old wall writing,” Rooks continued. “If you think of other objects that evoke similar social and cultural upheaval and transformation, like segments of the Berlin Wall, for example, they bear witness to history, with marks inscribed on their surface that had specific meanings for the viewer, for the maker, it can be lost. Rooks regards Parlá as a realist in this sense “because he digs into our own experience” and invokes objects that are familiar to us, “that have layers of history”.
Parlá’s skill is finding dignity in the accidents of time, the stalactitic surfaces and the undulating marks of a city’s cityscape, the things that accumulate over time and eventually get lost.
Unsurprisingly, the restlessness that characterizes his paintings is also reflected in his schedule. He is already working on his next projects, presentations at the Brooklyn Museum and at Gana Art, in Seoul, as well as exhibition curator in Istanbul and Italy. Perhaps a bit expected, he rejects this term, too: “I wouldn’t say a conservative,” he laughs. “More like an anti-systematic agent.”
José Parlá: Polarities
Through Aug. 24, Library Street Collective, 1274 Library Street, Detroit, (313) 600-7443; lscgallery.com.