José Parlá, The Awakening

2020.09.05 - 2020.12.19
The Awakening, 2020

 Yuka Tsuruno Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition by José Parlá, “The Awakening,” from September 5th to December 19th. In his third show at the gallery, Parlá presents new paintings that were created while experiencing significant social change amidst ongoing global social unrest, which has been most pronounced in the US.

 José Parlá’s works have embraced within them the histories, memories, and experiences that Parlá himself lives through in his multicultural surroundings, including dissonance arising from identity politics and immigration issues. Employing not just painting but various media such as sculpture, photography, and video, the abstract works emanate a particularly remarkable presence deriving from his characteristic calligraphy that materializes through his dance-like actions while painting. His works, inheriting the legacy of urban realism while renewing the tradition of post-war abstraction in art history, resemble walls in the city that accumulate material over time and change its appearance according to the people living within them. Diverse remnants and textures of events are braided together in the manner of collective memory. A memory of solidarity.

 In 2020, global instability caused by the spread of COVID-19, as well as historic social upheaval taking place in cities throughout the world, has left vestiges for alternative narratives to take place, producing many new possibilities for a new awakening. Parlá has composed the following poem for this exhibition.

The Awakening

awakening hindsight
        envisioning reason
camouflage writing against gaslighting
               blooms of mold
possessed of soul
      new secret gestures dreams of greener pastures

traces of immigrant pathways – civil wounds from fragmented truths
no fair shake
                 human rights violated
politicians on the take
             lives degraded
broken system              ghetto resistance
storms could be severe
                 the cold 19 is here
        a better chance for clear skies
the tapestry of melanin will persevere

           stealth rebellion and interdependence

lay it all on the wall              what ice melts

hearts swell
             the harder they come
the harder they fall

 The poem, which shares its title with the exhibition, weaves together Parlá’s experience in witnessing police violence and deep-seated structural racism, with the history of immigrants, the culture of resistance, and discriminatory treatment that persists in the present. These dynamics resound in the use of “ice” as a reference to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as the last two lines echoing Jimmy Cliff’s song “The Harder They Come.” Resonating with the poem written as a challenge to injustices, the works in the exhibition intricately layer such histories and present experiences, amplified by Parlá’s distinct style. A catalog chronicling the creation process along with the exhibited works will be published on the occasion of the exhibition.

Artist Profile

Parlá was born in Miami to Cuban parents in 1973, and began painting in Miami at ten years old. An alumnus of the Savannah College of Art and Design and New World School of the Arts, he is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Parlá is publicly known for his permanent installations of large-scale paintings. In 2015 he painted the monumental mural ONE: Union of the Senses in the lobby of One World Trade Center. Other notable mural projects include Nature of Language at North Carolina State University, the mural Diary of Brooklyn at the Barclays Center (2013). Parlá has exhibited worldwide and currently has a solo exhibition of his work that has been organized by the Bronx Museum of the Arts (New York). Some of his most recent solo exhibitions were held at the High Museum of Art (Atlanta), HOCA Foundation (Hong Kong), SCAD Museum of Art, (Savannah), Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery (New York), Ben Brown Fine Arts (London), and the Havana Biennial (La Habana Cuba).

Exhibition Outline

José Parlá, The Awakening
Date: September 5 – December 19, 2020
Opening hours: Tue – Thu, Sat, 11am – 6pm; Fri 11am – 8pm
* Closed on Sunday, Monday, and National holidays

Works in Exhibition

Installation View