José Parlá is an American artist, born to Cuban parents, currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He is perhaps most known for his very large-scale seemingly abstract paintings— but he has a wide range of practice from projects, installations, video, sculpture, photography and works on paper.
In one series, he used city walls as his backdrop – creating giant murals up to 70ft long and 10ft high, inspired by graffiti and street calligraphy he finds. In a similar project, he collaborated with another artist to paint street murals in Havana. His use of colour and line may evoke the abstract expressionism of artists such as Gerhard Richter or Jackson Pollock, but they come out of a different ethos – the spray cans, squiggled name tags and cryptic inscriptions of the street. Look closely and there are specific words written in his looping linework.
But don’t call him a street artist. “I’ve been fighting that term for years,” he has said. He prefers to identify with the hip-hop and graffiti cultures of his Miami youth.
On canvas, he combines layers of acrylic, collage, ink and plaster on works that often stretch to 12 feet in width. His work is highly critically acclaimed and he has pieces in the permanent collections of important institutions, such as the British Museum in London.