José Parlá's first solo museum exhibition in New York City evokes the cultural and global fabric of the Bronx

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José Parlá's first solo museum exhibition in New York City evokes the cultural and global fabric of the Bronx
José Parlá: It’s Yours, 2020 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Photo: Rey Parlá.

BRONX, NY.- The Bronx Museum of the Arts is presenting an exhibition focusing on a series of new large-scale paintings by José Parlá. On view from February 26 through August 16, 2020, this is the first solo museum exhibition of the internationally renowned artist in New York City. The new paintings evoke the artist’s personal connection to the Bronx, as well as the borough’s influence, which has helped to shape how Parlá views painting history and cities around the world. José Parlá: It’s Yours is organized by guest curator Manon Slome.

While celebrating Parlá’s roots in the hip-hop energy of the Bronx, this series of paintings address the suffering caused by redlining policies, the waves of displacement imposed by gentrification, and structural racism. It’s Yours encourages viewers to question ownership in New York’s rapidly changing neighborhoods.

Parlá’s work is deeply connected to experimentation and innovation to conjure complex memory abstractions as he challenges traditional painting methods. The rich building up of surface and Parlá's signature gestural line resemble the layers of city walls, reflecting the movement and textures of neighborhoods, the marks and traces people leave behind, and the energy and challenges of the streets.

In addition to large-scale paintings in the museum’s gallery, the exhibition features Parlá’s sketchbooks and drawings from age ten to seventeen as well as site specific responses in the lobby and outdoors that seek to integrate the museum with the city.

Born in Miami to Cuban parents, Parlá began painting on walls in Miami at ten years old, signing his work with the nickname "Ease." Supporting himself by designing album covers and concert fliers for hip-hop artists, he moved to the Bronx after studying painting at the Savannah College of Art & Design and Miami Dade College: New World School of the Arts. The title of the exhibition, It’s Yours, is borrowed from a song by the influential Bronx rapper T La Rock, who assured his fans that his work would continue to be about and for them no matter what. In a similar manner, Parlá acknowledges the powerful forces that shaped him as an artist and offers this work back to the Bronx in tribute: It’s Yours.

A fully integrated and multi-disciplined program for youth and families will be developed alongside the exhibition to reflect the rich cultural diversity of the Bronx and its many influences on Parlà’s work. The artist will also work with the museum's after school programs to develop a mural on a plot adjacent to the museum. A catalogue by Damiani Editore will be produced in conjunction with the exhibition. Craig Dykers from Architecture and design firm Snøhetta will collaborate with José Parlá and Manon Slome on the exhibition design, and Ghetto Gastro will design a special menu for the opening of the exhibition.

The exhibition is curated by Manon Slome, Co-Founder and Board President of No Longer Empty where she is Curator at Large. Slome's work has a keen curatorial imperative to further arts for communities beyond institutional confines and to make art accessible to all. She has been working with José Parlá for over fifteen years.

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