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Ben Brown Fine Arts is proud to present Phosphene, an exhibition of new works by New York-based Cuban artist José Parlá at the flagship London gallery from 11 October to 17 November 2023, coinciding with Frieze London.
The significance of these works lies, in part, from their inspiration following the artist’s near-death experience with Covid (2021) and unveils an exhilarating and poignant exhibition drawing on recurring themes in his practice, including urban space, human markings, memory and energy.
Parlá’s Phosphene series began while the artist spent time in his hometown of Miami, Florida, during what was meant to be a brief period of respite between his schedule of exhibitions around the world. There, surrounded by nature and brilliant sunlight, the artist began to experiment with painting outdoors – a stark contrast to his industrial studio in Brooklyn – using the sun to elucidate the abstract visual language in his mind. This exhibition takes its title from the visual phenomenon that gives the impression of seeing light with eyes closed. Appearing as flashes of colourful light, such as dots, swirls or shapes that wander slowly across a person’s vision, the term ‘phosphene’ is derived from Greek phōs ‘light’ + phainein ‘to show’.
Phosphene is comprised of eleven pulsating works executed during this fertile period of en plein air painting, which build upon the experimental phenomenon of retinal closed-eye hallucinations and conjure complex memory abstractions as a dense maze of paints and textures. The works continue Parlá’s lifelong dialogue with the urban subconscious, the tempo and flow of the streets, and musical inspirations such as his roots in the conception days of Hip Hop culture. Furthermore, they are imbued with a quiet yet powerful spirit of survival that calls us to consider notions of legacy, ownership, and the imprints we leave behind.
José Parlá (b. 1973, Miami, USA) is a critically acclaimed, multidisciplinary artist working in painting, large-scale murals, photography, video, and sculpture. He started painting walls in Miami's underground art scene of the early 1980s and went to study at Miami Dade Community College, New World School of the Arts and Savannah College of Art & Design. Parlá’s work has been exhibited at The Bronx Museum, The Bronx, NY; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Istanbul’74, Istanbul; SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY; National YoungArts Foundation, Miami, FL; Van Every/Smith Galleries, Davidson, NC; and the Havana Biennial, Havana, among others. Parlá’s work is in several public collections including the British Museum, London; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; POLA Museum of Art, Hakone; and the National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana. Permanent Public Arts projects include commissions by New York City Department of Design and Construction Queens Public Library, New York, NY; The University of Texas, Austin, TX; One World Trade Center for his monumental mural painting, ONE: Union of the Senses, the largest painting of its kind in New York City, in the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere; Barclays Center, New York, NY; Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, NY; André Balazs' Chiltern Firehouse, London; North Carolina State University’s Hunt Library by Snøhetta; and at Concord City Place, Toronto. Parlá currently has five large-scale landscape paintings featured in Brooklyn Abstractions: Four Artists, Four Walls at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY.
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