If you like the large-scale drip paintings of Jackson Pollock, find awe-inspiring the swirling abstract landscapes of Turner and love street and graffiti art-inspired calligraphy, you should visit the latest London exhibition of Jose Parla’s art, a Cuban-American street artist-turned-fine, writes Guy Bird.
Big art is best viewed in person. While some great artworks look almost as impressive on a high-definition screen or on a well-printed poster – Van Gogh’s consistently small works are perhaps a good example – Jose Parla’s art is best seen up close to fully appreciate its scale and impact.
His latest ‘setting’ is London’s Haunch of Venison gallery in upmarket New Bond Street – right by Bonhams auction house – where a new solo exhibition of recent works has just opened. Featuring huge artworks, including one created especially for the gallery that covers two whole walls of a room on the large white-walled space’s ground-floor, this collection has an impact that is hard to ignore.
Jose Parla was born in 1973 in Miami, Florida to Cuban parents. While his creative roots lie in graffiti art he has also studied painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and the New World School of Arts in Miami and now melds these self-taught skills with conventional art training in a sophisticated and mature way.
Parla’s art mixes found objects from his global travels – fragments of posters or newspapers re-applied to board or canvas – overlaid with washes of colour and layers of graffiti art-inspired calligraphy to create compositions with great depth and a sense of history and place too. For example, a recent trip to India informs the fading poster fragments applied to his artwork Rajasthan Night Drive and although it was painted in 2012, it looks like a slice of wall with layers of history running through it that could be decades deep. The vivid colour, scale and physical depth – the surface of Parla’s paintings are rarely flat – creates real impact that benefits close scrutiny too.
Despite the upmarket setting of this exhibition, Parla still works in the street as well. A particularly fruitful recent collaboration with French street artist JR found Parla adorning many walls in Havana, Cuba, alongside JR’s paste-up photographs of some of Cuba’s senior – but previously unsung – citizens. Called ‘The Wrinkles of the City”, the project created 25 photo-murals around a place more used to portraits of Castro and other political imagery and has since become the subject of a film and an excellent hardback book.
Parla’s work at the exhibition is available to buy from $5000 to $125,000 but if you’d rather start off by collecting something smaller and more affordable, a book of the exhibition will be soon be available from the Haunch of Venison gallery at 103 New Bond Street, London W1S 1ST or its website www.haunchofvenison.com. The Parla show finishes on March 28, which incidentally, is also when the gallery will close for good (to become a showroom for private auctions), so this is a perfect time to visit Parla’s fantastic art in such a special space. www.joseparla.com.
Guy Bird is a freelance writer and editor specialising in cars, design and art for the likes of CAR magazine, Wallpaper* and Esquire. He attends the world’s auto shows from Paris to Tokyo interviewing the world’s best designers and has road-tested the vast majority of vehicles available in the UK over the last 18 years. www.guybird.com