covid. a coma. A stroke. José Parlá returns from the edge.

“Surfaces, whether walls, canvases or sculptural objects, act like palimpsests for him, and I think that’s where his practice as a writer, as a painter, these calligraphic, gestural signs have meaning,” said Michael Rooks, the curator of modern and contemporary art at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and curator of the 2014 exhibition “José Parlá: Segmented Realities”, Parlá’s first major museum exhibition.

“You can trace that impulse to old wall lettering,” Rooks continued. “If we think of other objects that evoke similar social and cultural upheaval and transformation, such as parts of the Berlin Wall, they are witnesses of history, with traces inscribed on their surface that had specific meanings for the maker, the can be lost.” Rooks considers Parlá a realist in this sense, “because he unearths our own experience” and appeals to familiar objects “that have layers of history”.

Parlá’s skill lies in giving dignity to the accidents of time, to the stalactic surfaces and curved traces of a city’s streetscape, to the things that accumulate over time and are eventually lost.

Not surprisingly, the restlessness that characterizes his paintings carries over into his schedule as well. He is already working on his next projects, presentations at the Brooklyn Museum and Gana Art in Seoul, as well as curating exhibitions in Istanbul and Italy. Perhaps somewhat expectantly, he also rejects this term: “I wouldn’t say curator,” he laughs. “More like an anti-systematic agent.”

José Parlá: Polarities

Through August 24, Library Street Collective, 1274 Library Street, Detroit, (313) 600-7443;

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