09/09/2019 - 29/09/2019




When I first visited Istanbul in 1999, its people and their beautiful environment fascinated me. I felt an immediate connection to the city as somehow it also reminded me of Havana, Cuba, the home of my parents. The energy of the Bosphorus, the walls of the town and the calligraphy inscribed on temple walls were inspiring at first sight.  


My interest in calligraphy comes from when I started writing on walls at the young age of ten in my hometown of Miami, Florida.  The year was 1983, and the style of writing I was captivated by was wild and spreading out through cities all over the world.  Over the last thirty-six years, I have set out to establish a style of painting that transforms the language of the street into a hybrid form of abstraction and urban realism.


During my first trip to Turkey, I wondered what life was like for the calligraphers of the Ottoman Empire, and I always dreamed of doing a project that would allow me to pay homage to a culture of masterful calligraphers in world history. 


The title Isthmus is a symbolic one for me as it means a narrow strip of land with the sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land.  The City of Istanbul, with its infamous river, is part of a strip of land connecting two continents, Asia and Europe, physically, symbolically, and metaphorically connecting the East and the West.  


For this exhibition, I am presenting a series of calligraphic works on paper, paintings, and ceramics that pay homage to the history of calligraphy in Turkey and imagines what calligraphy from my part of the world could look like and represent to future generations.


José Parlá

Brooklyn, NY 



José Parlá has emerged in the past decade as one of his generation’s most fervent champions of painting, working for more than twenty years to establish a style of painting that transforms the language of the street into a hybrid form of abstraction and urban realism. From the outset, Parlá has sought to interpret his experience of cities that have served as crossroads in his life, from Miami to Brooklyn, San Juan to Havana, London to Tokyo, Istanbul to Hong Kong as a central theme in his work, while purposefully engaging with the rich history of painting since the rise of abstraction in the 1950s. His work provides markers of time, and is about the accumulation of information that settles like accretions upon the surfaces of walls and streets, and in the lines on the hands and faces of the people who inhabit them.

~Michael Rooks, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at High Museum of Art Atlanta, Georgia


Solo exhibitions of Parla’s work have been organized at the Neuberger Museum of Art, NY, NY (2018); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2017); 

National YoungArts Foundation, Miami, FL (2016);
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (2015)


Upcoming institutional solo exhibitions:

2019 HOCA Foundation, Hong Kong with curator Dr. Dieter Buchhart
2020 The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York City with curator Manon Slome


Select groups exhibitions and biennials featuring his work include the Beyond The Streets, New York exhibition, 2019, GLASSTRESS 2019 colateral exhibition of the Venice Biennial, U-M Museum of Art University of Michigan (2017); Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York; (2016) Van Every/Smith Galleries, Davidson College, NC (2016); and The Havana Biennial, Havana, Cuba (2012).


Parlá’s work is in several public collections including, The British Museum, London, United Kingdom; The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, POLA Museum of Art, Hakone, Japan; The Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York; and The National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba.


Permanent Public Arts projects include commissions by the the University of Texas at Austin (2018); ONE World Trade Center, NY,NY (2015); North Carolina State University’s Hunt Library in collaboration with Snøhetta, Raleigh, NC (2013);
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY (2012) Brooklyn Academy of Music, BAM Fisher (2012); and Concord City Place, Toronto, Canada (2010)

"Caught very much in the moment, Parlá's time is always transitory, a measure of echoes rather than certainties, a resonance of history where absence constitutes a more formidable presence than anything so shiny and new as the present." - Carlo McCormick

"Like Gerhard Richter, Parlá sees our art-historical notions of abstraction and abstract expressionism as having inextricably and poetically woven themselves in our contemporary understanding of the real, the authentic, the dramatic, the historic, the classic, the modern, the global, the magical, the African, the human."