Ben Brown Fine Arts Hong Kong is extremely proud to present Textures of Memory, an ambitious exhibition of works by New York-based artist José Parlá. Curated by Dieter Buchhart, Textures of Memory is presented across two venues in conjunction with Hong Kong Contemporary Art (HOCA) Foundation and offers the Hong Kong audience a comprehensive insight into Parlá's output ranging from urban art to his abstract palimpsest paintings.
In the gallery, Textures of Memory features a series of new abstract paintings and sculptural pieces drawing on key and recurring themes in Parlá's practice including the urban space, human markings and calligraphy. Informed by his recurring visits to Hong Kong over the years, the title refers to the physical impressions left around the city by time and evokes the dense maze of paints and textures which allude to the cityscape. Among the thick coats of acrylic, spray paints and pigmented powders one can find pieces of the city itself worked into the very fabric of the canvases. Advertising posters, political slogans, building debris and recycled materials are employed to highlight economic, social and environmental issues as witnessed by the artist in the relentless cycle of construction and destruction within the urban landscape.
In works such as Bergen Street & 3rd Ave Boerum Hill and Verona Street Redhook (both 2019), the reminiscences associated with particular locations are reflected in Parlá’s choice of paints; private observations are conveyed in bold brushstrokes, while personal narratives are transcribed in calligraphies. Each layer signifies a memory sustained, each line and shape chronicling an event of note.
Concurrently, HOCA Foundation presented a historical context of the artist’s oeuvre with 12 representative paintings and sculptures from 2004 to 2018 at The Annex, 2/F, Nan Fung Centre, Central, from 18 September to 11 October 2019.
Born in Miami to Cuban parents, Parlá spent his childhood in Puerto Rico before returning with his family to Miami in the 1980s where, as a teenager, he took part in the city’s underground art scene. Moving to New York in his early twenties, Parlá continued to develop his signature abstract style, informed by his studies of historical landscape painting and Abstract Expressionism. The idiosyncratic calligraphic markings that became an identifying feature of his paintings evolved out of subway art and were influenced by the varied scripts, symbols, and glyphs he encountered during his travels to the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. His artworks tell stories of immigrant roots, city wanderings and human encounters which reference personal histories while also leaving room for his viewers to find their own stories. Spanning the last five years of the artist’s practice, the works presented across two locations weave together the stories of Parlá’s recent past and explore the collective memories of the world through which he travels.
Ben Brown Fine Arts and HOCA Foundation published a monographic book to accompany the exhibitions, which delves further into the past 30 years of Parlá’s oeuvre and the significant milestones throughout.
An artist talk presented in partnership with SCAD Hong Kong took place on 19 September at 6:30pm on the SCAD Campus, 292 Tai Po Rd, Sham Shui Po, featuring both the artist José Parlá and Textures of Memory curator Dieter Buchhart via webcam.