Famed mythologist Joseph Campbell claimed that you could measure the priorities of a society by its highest structure. In medieval Europe, that structure was the church spire; in Paris, a very elegant radio tower. In Manhattan, in the year 2015, it's the sky-scraping One World Trade Center, a run-of-the-mill, $3.8 billion office building that carries just a touch of historic and symbolic resonance—just a touch.
So, if you’re artist José Parlá, who has just been given the commission to create a monumental mural (90x15 feet) for the lobby, where do you begin?
José applying the finishing touches at One World Trade. Photo: Rey Parlá
“To be honest, this was the most difficult painting I’ve ever done,” Parlá confesses during an interview in his Brooklyn studio. We sit on a pair of mid-century sofas overlooking an open floor below. A dozen or so canvases in various stages of completion hang on four modular walls that, unlike the derelict, abandoned walls he captures so powerfully in his art, are clean and white. His whole studio is something out of an artist's dream. Behold an American success story...
From the Streets to the Gallery, Back to the Streets, and into our Plaza
Born in Miami in 1973 to exiled Cuban parents, Parlá started painting under the name Ease in the 1980s. He received a scholarship to the Savannah School of Art and Design, left early to help his family recover from Hurricane Andrew and further developed his unique fusion of calligraphy and abstract expressionism at the New World School of Art. He moved to the Bronx in 1998 and his first big break came in 2003 when he was selected by Agnès B. for a group show in Paris.