Character Gestures is a solo reveal of José Parlá’s latest body of work. Comprised of paintings, mono-transfers and installations, this exhibition builds on the artist’s earlier work that dealt with the concept of psychogeography and depicted distressed architectural surfaces layered with calligraphic text. While he continues to broach the idea of how we experience urban landscapes and the visual language of mark making, the shift within Character Gestures stems from a deeper engagement with process and abstraction.
The notion of “character” is as much about text, integrity, and specific traits, as it is a literal nod to Parlá’s performance, wherein he assumes the role of hypothetical pedestrians who interact with marred city walls, as he creates the work. “Gesture,” encompasses the ideas of movement, communication, and demonstration, and is mutually respectful of the artist’s accidental and calculated actions when applying medium to surface.
With Parlá’s new paintings, as seen in No Return, Here Again, 2011, marks mix with textures, bright colors, and media, yet the process is as involved and significant as the visual outcome. Additionally, a large-scale installation fills the central gallery space – the freestanding sculptural translation of classroom memories opens a conversation with the surrounding paintings. In a collection of work on paper, which Parlá refers to as “mono-transfers,” he experiments with a form of frottage, documenting his new paintings via the impressions they leave on paper.
Character Gestures exemplifies Parlá’s deftness at technical execution; the complexity of layering, combined with erasure, still manages a translucent effect. His fluency in visual communication is mindful of the fact that any emotion or memory that attempts physicality can only serve, in reality, as an abbreviation of its original essence. He mitigates this condition through his poetic and individualized form of aesthetic dialogue, while navigating the art historic doctrine of Abstraction.