The Founders by José Parlá

Read a text written by José Parlá to accompany the timed release of our our latest collaboration, The Founders.

Jose Parla – The Founders

Introducing The Founders by José Parlá, a timed edition available to order for 24 hours from 9:00 AM BST on Friday 1st October 2021.

The work was originally created for a 2020 solo show It’s Yours at The Bronx Museum of the Arts. In the months that followed one of New York’s last great pre-pandemic openings, José found himself unable to paint while battling and recovering from a severe case of Covid-19. The work gained profound and renewed significance as the artist reconnected with members of his community during this time – both with those who assisted his recovery and those whose memories he encountered amidst the fever dreams of an induced coma. The result is a work imbued with the fortitude and spirit of José and all those who surround him.

Below is a text written by the artist to accompany the edition – by all accounts, a must read.

From the artist

Portrait of an artist Jose Parla paining at his studio

“Being a part of ‘Writing Culture’ has provided me purpose and long-lasting friendships in my life. Through time, these friendships created a local and global community as I built my artistic practice traveling the world. It is essential to define the vernacular use of the term “writing” here as the art form has also now been labeled with various phrases like Graffiti Art, Aerosol Art, Neo-Expressionism or Street Art. I do not adhere to these labels as much as the original term “Writing,” used by us writers when there was barely any market for it, or acceptance by the educational systems of art history, galleries, or museums. The canon of Writing Culture within the global art history complex is symbolic of counterculture, including its music, dance moves, design and fashion. It connects the dots that in turn shape a bigger picture of the many directions that the underground art form has taken within popular culture until now, and of its natural activism.

I decided to write this text to document that history, decipher it a bit more for you, and to share my personal artistic beginnings through this unique painting, entitled The Founders. The ensuing edition with Avant Arte pays homage to this contemporary art form and subcultural visual language, and allows many who have also experienced the battle with and adverse effects of COVID-19 to connect with my story. During my hospitalization and struggle with the virus I was placed in an induced-coma. I feel blessed to have woken up from this dream state. In my dreams, I traveled to many places and connected with friends like Futura, Lee Q., and others. When I woke up the dreams felt more like real memories. I connected deeply with my roots as I visited friends in Japan, Miami, Hong Kong, Australia and New York as if I was saying my final goodbyes, but I wasn’t ready to go and when I woke up I thought I was in an airplane at JFK airport having returned from all these trips. One of the first thoughts I had was that my nurses were the airline flight attendants and it all seemed normal to me. When I realized I was in a hospital the strength I needed and was looking for came via memories of my art form and the life of being a writer, which gave me the instincts of my survival mode then and now.

Artist named Jose Parla paints a large scale paining
Installation view of large scale painings by artist Jose Parla at Bronx Museum

It's Yours at the Bronx Museum of Arts, 2020. Images courtesy of the artist and Farzad Owrang.

The painting is dedicated to the artists who started this revolutionary form of public expression, to the resilient artistic community with roots in New York City and to all who continuously carry the art form in new directions to create in various art-making genres like: painting, sculpture, graphic design, film, fashion and photography – which keep cities so alive. The artists I met as a young kid in South Florida came from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and the differences between them did not matter. It was art that brought us together like art has and continues to bring us together today. For this, I am eternally grateful.

In 1983, my brother Rey, a.k.a. Faz, and our friend Jes 1 introduced me to writing and breakdancing as we learned together all about the elements that made Hip Hop culture a worldwide phenomenon. At the time we were in South Miami Heights in Miami, Florida. We looked up to local writers and friends like Jes 1, Try, Ask, Ake Love, Dee Love and Raze. They spoke to us about what was happening in New York and other states, and showed us lettering styles and pictures of art being made on the subways up north as they spoke to us about the “Writers’ Bench” at 149th street & the Grand Concourse Subway Station in The Bronx. A Writer’s Bench is where writers would see the freshly painted trains and discuss current events, styles or beef, squash problems, etc. We had our own local version at Eureka Park in South Miami Heights, but without the subway trains. This was when I started painting under the name Ease.

This art form brought us together, we made a lot of friends, and it provided a path to make connections with other writers and all kinds of artists throughout the world.

Between 1983 and 1989, I met many writers who would become my teachers and peers, such as Name 189, Note 202, Near, Merlen and Even1er, Reech, Icey, Scam, Mero in South Miami. From West Miami: Sar, Dazz, Senik, Void, Seel, Ovee, Dizmo, Junior, Edec and Shie, and from the North and Downtown Miami area: Seam, Dash, Sneek, Mork, Marle, Deem, Odee, Zeek, Micro, Zee, Meen, Zoomer and many others. The purpose of my listing names throughout this text is to decipher the names written in a cryptographic style within The Founders.

From 1986 and into the 90s I would visit New York. During that period I would meet and paint with writers throughout the east coast and for a few years in Atlanta, Georgia alongside Emer, Stack and Crisis, and in New York City with Oncer, Kaves, Kase 2, Sento, Noah, Stak, Part, Ezo, Chino, Riff 170, Coco 144, Phase 2, Chain 3, Kaws, Lee, Futura, Stash, Ket, Reas, Keo, Sonic, Ink76, Espo, Mare 139, Bom5, King Bee, Jew, Smith, Lady Pink, Peak, Diva, Bio, Nicer, BG 183, Diva, Doms, Cope 2 and others. Eventually, I moved to NYC alongside my crew known as the Ink Heads, which was created in the Bronx and Miami with members Edec, Faz, Cer, Shie, Sar, Hoze, News, Rage, Dekay, Jes, Kool, Abomb, Esto, Esa, Sem, Raven, Rash, Rave and Nate. During this time I also became a member of the renowned crew The Fantastic Partners.

All of these names represent the memories of shared times with each artist. They are layered into The Founders as a mark of respect for a diverse community and friendships that signify an entwined global movement based on a mentorship system. With this edition and through the original painting, a record is born of the artists I admire who have inspired me as I shaped my art.”

– José Parlá

Edition details

Released as a 24 hour timed edition on Friday 1st October, The Founders is an archival pigment print on 305 gsm Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth paper. Register your interest at the link below to receive reminders in the lead up to the launch.