José Parlá: Street Walls Under Gallery Lights
If you grew up in New York City during the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, when graffiti and tagging were ubiquitous in the subway, mom-and-pop storefront gates, and building lobbies, José Parlá’s exhibit at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery will undoubtedly evoke nostalgia. Influenced by the marks and messages he sees on urban walls, Parlá’s practice stands as a testament to graffiti’s evolution and worldwide influence.
Throughout the decades, the Miami native has artistically perfected the urban vernacular by carving himself a space between artists such as Cy Twombly, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joan Mitchell and Rammellzee. He has mastered the ability to re-engineer the composition he sees on graffiti walls; reconstruct the layering created by torn advertising posters; and the erosion seen in cityscapes. To do so, Parlá applies oil, acrylic, enamel, plaster on canvas and wood. He also ventures into readymade sculptures like the first piece one sees in the space, which visually grabs you instantly.
In Anonymous Vernacular, the Cuban-American artist introduces his spectators to a new sculpture that pays homage to homeless bottle collectors who recycle found bottles to make ends meet: If You Take Care of It, It Will Grow/Mobile Home, 2019. The sculpture distinctly resonates with me; it triggers moments of my childhood when my mother used to collect and recycle bottles as an additional stream of income. Or as she endearingly called it, “uno nunca sabe lo que puede pasar.” The term meant, one never knows what can happen... One should always save and prepare for the worst. She’s a real one.
Parlá’s amalgamation of graffiti, scribbles, and abstraction is unique and worth admiration. Similar to his role model, Basquiat, the Brooklyn-based artist has brought a previously overlooked art form under gallery lights, and in doing so continues to give anonymous artists a permanent voice in art history.
Anonymous Vernacular will be on view through June 29, 2019 at Bryce Wolkowitz.