Jose Parla was born to Cuban exiles in1973 in Miami, Florida (Bello, 2008). He started painting in 1983, although even as a young kid Parla already loved to draw “adventurous type of drawings” such as mazes and graffiti on walls (Bello, 2008). In 1988, he received a scholarship to study painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia (Bello, 2008). He then studied at The New World School of the Arts in Miami (Joseparla.com, n.d.). He combined the new methods which he learned at school with his own style. Among the awards that Parla received are The Scholastic Art Award and the Frances Larkin McCommon Scholarship.
Parla describes his paintings as “Segmented Realities” because each layer that he puts in his work has a story to tell (Bello, 2008). His paintings are a combination of “intricate flowing layers of beautiful script, stacked collage, heavy textures and self-blended pigments” (Bello, 2008). The layers and textures of his painting reflect his memories during the different phases of his life (Aloa, 2009). He finds inspiration in the “surfaces of deteriorated walls and remnants of construction markings” (Aloa, 2009). One can observe that Parla’s paintings are replete with calligraphic and palimpsestic codes which according to him are records of his experiences and a personal journal (Joseparla.com, n.d.). He goes on further to say that, “With this language I hope to communicate and provoke thoughts of the past and present conditions in the human spirit” (Aloa, 2009).
Parla uses a variety of materials in his works, from charcoal, oil, watercolor, acrylic paints, pens, markers, aerosols to bizen clay, plaster, saw dust, old posters and dirt (Bello, 2008). With the help of a biologist friend, he mixes his own paints and chalks to come up with colors that are all his own (Bello, 2008).
One of the famous paintings of Parla is “Gemini” which he painted after the September 11 attacks. It has a socio-political theme. Parla did it from his view in Brooklyn. The painting consists of an abstract collage of the world which is portrayed covered with thick smoke (Bello, 2008).
“Character Gestures” is another painting made by Parla in 2011. He used diptych oil, ink, collage, plaster and pigment on wood (Joseparla.com, n.d.). It is very typical of Parla’s work as shown by the calligraphy and the rich texture. Once again, it is a multi-layered painting with a vast range of colors.
“Brothers Back to Back” is a painting done by Parla which is derived from his memory about his childhood experiences with his brother, Rey. Caught in a dangerous situation, they would often position themselves back to back to have a good view from all directions. The dominant color of the painting is black, gray and white. The layers of white calligraphy represent his memories with his brother; almost like a diary for Parla (Bello, 2008).
Parla’s public collections can be found at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City, The Burger Collection, Hong Kong and at the Concord Project, City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Joseparla.com, n.d.). Parla is currently based in Brooklyn, New York.
Aloa. (2009, August 28). Calligraphic paintings of Jose Parla. [Online]. Available at http://abduzeedo.com/typographic-paintings-jose-parla. [Accessed 18 June 2012]
Bello, M. (2008, October 28). Jose Parla interview. [Online]. Available at http://www.fecalface.com/SF/index.php?id=1310&option=com_content&task=view. [Accessed 18 June 2012]
Joseparla.com. (n.d.). Jose Parla biography. [Online]. Available at http://www.joseparla.com/#!text/biography/. [Accessed 18 June 2012]