09/09/2019 - 29/09/2019


 “When I first visited Istanbul in 1999, its people and the beautiful environment they live in 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 Bosporus, the walls of the town and the calligraphy inscribed on temple walls were inspiring at first sight.  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.”

- José Parlá


ISTANBUL’74 will present Cuban American contemporary artist José Parlá’s “ISTHMUS” exhibition running parallel to the 16thIstanbul Biennial of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts. 


The opening reception for the exhibition will be held on September 9, 2019, between 19:00-21:00 at ISTANBUL'74 Suleyman Seba St. No: 1-3. The reception is open to the public.


Inspired by Istanbul and Bosporus, the exhibition is named “ISTHMUS” which means “a strip of land with the sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land.”  “ISTHMUS” will consist of Parlá’s new works on paper and paintings, as well as ceramics produced in collaboration with the established ceramics company Gorbon, whose approach to design is rooted in traditional Turkish handicrafts.


Parlá describes his process as “imagining what calligraphy from my part of the world could look like and represent to future generations” and his concept of ISTHMUS signifies the calligraphic mode of image production as a means of cultural expression. Istanbul is a strip of land connecting two continents, Asia and Europe, physically. For Parlá, symbolically, and metaphorically the city also becomes a bridge uniting Eastern and Western cultures.


The artist presents references to the calligraphic tradition and memory of the city whose history spans millennia, drawing inspiration from renowned museums and collections such as the Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum. 


José Parlá adopts an expressionist approach based on improvised movement in his works where he uses multiple layers by incorporating various found materials from daily life in his compositions. This is a reflection of the research-based approach to “urban environments” that the artist has been foregrounding in his work. Some of his pieces featuring the “living textures” of the global cities he visits are part of the collections of such reputable institutions as British Museum and the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, Cuba.


José Parlá gained international acclaim for his monumental mural "ONE: Union of the Senses" produced for One World Trade Center, the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in New York, and the largest canvas painting of its kind in the tallest building of the Western Hemisphere. 


In an interview, Parlá describes his abstract language with the following words: “Calligraphy has the gesture of the human body within its poetic movement, and although it can be literal, it can also be a form of abstraction. Contributing to American street writing sub-culture, I wanted to create a universal style that could be compared to traditional calligraphies from around the globe. This helped me to imagine how I could incorporate the gesture of a passerby into my paintings that would tear an advertising poster or write a political message on a wall.”


Turkey’s leading arts and culture platform ISTANBUL’74 was brought to life in 2009 by Creative Director Demet Muftuoglu Eseli and Filmmaker Alphan Eseli. Taking its name and inspiration from the city that culturally and geographically bridges two continents, ISTANBUL’74 organizes cultural events, festivals, workshops, exhibitions and artistic collaborations with creative thought leaders. In 2018, ISTANBUL’74 opened a second office in New York and continues its operations in both cities. 


ISTANBUL’74 produces and curates exhibitions for a wide range of established, international artists of various disciplines, bringing those exhibitions to cities around the world. 


Since 2010, ISTANBUL'74 has also been curating and organizing The IST. International Arts & Culture Festival (IST. Festival), an annual, multidisciplinary festival that connects international leaders in art, design, fashion, film, music, literature and architecture with their counterparts in Turkey, promoting open dialogue and creative collaborations around the globe. Open to the public, IST. FESTIVAL is a three-day-long, public event with panels, talks, workshops, exclusive screenings, and exhibitions, all part of ISTANBUL'74's dedication to cultivating community engagement and arts education and starting in 2019, with a vision to travel beyond borders, IST. Festival broadened its reach to a wider global audience, launching new biannual editions, to premiere in Rome. 


ISTANBUL'74 is made up of several distinct components: ‘74GALLERY, an art gallery that produces exhibitions and private events with local and international artists, ‘74STUDIO, a full-service creative branding, and communications agency; ‘74FILM, a production house and studio focusing on video conceptualization, development, and production; ‘74ESCAPE, an online diary showcasing travel experiences and insights from around the world with a concept store that features unique collaborations and limited edition collections.


About Gorbon Tiles


Being located in Istanbul, one of the historical capitals of the world, GORBON has always embraced the cultural assets of Islamic civilization. Turkey has a long history of traditional craftsmanship. Traditional craftsmanship in Turkey is perhaps the most tangible manifestation of traditional Turkish hand made crafts. Some of the most valuable traditional handicrafts made by traditional craftsmen.


The tradition of handcraft in Anatolia is still one of the significant assets of GORBON when it comes to the production of handmade tiles. Ceramic items that have an essential place in human life have served humankind in various ways since the beginning of history. Prof. Rebii Gorbon, Founder of the GORBON, has made sure that this tradition lives within the GORBON production facilities and it still does.