José Parlá is an artist who assumes several roles in order to create his work; he acts as a historical transcriber, and a visual raconteur. As a transcriber, he records his experiences in calligraphic and palimpsestic code. Serving as a collection of textually chronicled memories, the markings appear on backdrops that resemble the distressed surfaces he encounters – the cosmetic results of passed time – city walls marred from layers of paint, old posters, and years of neglect. As a storyteller, Parlá presents a leitmotif of an enigmatic narrative, reaching to translate moments that only a visual dialogue can convey.
His paintings incorporate calligraphy into pictures that resemble distressed city walls. Art historian Michael Betancourt divided his paintings into three categories: walls, diaries, and pictures. Walls are mural sized, diaries are smaller than walls, heavily filled with writing, and resemble a palimpsest. Pictures are the size of traditional paintings, but their visual contents resembles the walls but without the scale. “What Parlá’s work provides to its viewers is a way to re-see the city and re-engage the value of urban life.”