Main content

Inside the NEU: José Parlá


This edition of Inside the NEU explores the life and work of contemporary abstract artist José Parlá whose first solo museum exhibition in New York City, José Parlá: It’s Yours, is currently on view at the Bronx Museum of the Arts through January 10, 2021.


Parlá is known for his permanent installations of large-scale paintings. You may have seen his 70-foot site-specific mural Diary of Brooklyn (2013) at the Barclays Center and the monumental ONE: Union of the Senses mural in the lobby of One World Trade Center. At 90 feet long by 14.5 feet tall, ONE is believed to be the largest painting in New York City.

Gallery view of Recent Acquisitions at the Neuberger Museum of Art (Spring 2020). Gallery view of Recent Acquisitions at the Neuberger Museum of Art (Spring 2020).In January, the Neuberger’s Recent Acquisitions exhibition featured No Space / Non Place #1 (2017), one of the four large format works that had been commissioned for José Parlá: No Space / Non Place, a public project that was on view from December 2017 to April 2018 at NEU SPACE I 42, the Neuberger’s exhibition venue in New York City. The 72 inch by 72 inch acrylic and powdered pigment on canvas was donated to the Neuberger by the artist.

“José’s work is filled with raw emotion,” said Neuberger Museum Assistant Curator Avis Larson, who worked with Parlá on No Space / Non Place as well as Post No Bills: Public Walls as Studio and Source, an exhibition at the Neuberger in Fall 2016.

About the Artist

The son of Cuban immigrant parents, Parla began painting art on walls across his birthplace city of Miami when he was just 10 years old. At 16, he received a scholarship to Savannah College of Art & Design after a high school teacher noticed his talent. He later studied at Miami Dade Community College and New World School of the Arts before moving to New York where he initially supported himself by designing album covers and concert fliers for hip-hop artists.

During his career he has established a signature style of painting that transforms the language of the street into a hybrid form of abstraction and urban realism. In the past decade he has emerged as one of this generation’s most fervent champions of painting, exhibiting worldwide and collaborating with artists from various countries.

Parlá uses the backdrop of world cities— from Miami to Brooklyn, San Juan to Havana, London to Tokyo, Istanbul to Hong Kong—to explore the history of urban environments and capture the essence of a place at the brief moment between past and future.

His work challenges traditional painting methods. The rich building up of surface and his 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.

José Parlá: It’s Yours

The artist’s first solo museum exhibition in New York City, José Parlá: It’s Yours, opened at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on February 26, 2020 and runs through January 2021. The show includes new large-scale paintings that celebrate Parlá’s roots in the hip-hop energy of the Bronx; address the suffering caused by redlining policies, the waves of displacement imposed by gentrification, and structural racism; and encourage viewers to question ownership in New York’s rapidly changing neighborhoods.

In addition to 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.

Watch the short video below to see a preview of the exhibition (click the video title to expand to full screen) or click here to view exhibition images on the exhibition webpage.

Watch the video below for the June 25th artist talk as Parlá discusses the works in It’s Yours with exhibition curator Manon Slome and the Bronx Museum’s Holly Block Social Justice Curator Jasmine Wahi. (Click the video title to expand to full screen.)

To view It’s Yours in person, visit the Bronx Museum of the Arts website to reserve a free ticket at least 24 hours in advance. Tickets can be reserved HERE for time slots between 1:00 and 6:00 PM, Wednesday to Sunday. The 1:00 and 1:30 PM time slots are reserved for seniors and high-risk individuals only.

More Information

Visit the artist’s website to read his bio and view selected works.


October 12, 2020