José Parlá - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  •  José Parlá’s oeuvre powerfully embodies the energy of street life and takes inspiration from the spatial and social configuration of urban environments. The American artist, born in Miami to a family of Cuban exiles, started his career as a muralist at the age of ten, under the pseudonym of Ease. At sixteen, he obtained a scholarship to join the Savannah College of Art and Design. After attending the New World School of the Arts, he moved to Bronx, where he initially made a living by designing album covers and t-shirts for hip-hop artists. Today Parlá is a critically acclaimed multidisciplinary artist, who compellingly describes his work as made of 'expansions that weave in and out of the context of subway art, wall textures, cities, psycho-geography, and abstraction' i.


    In Chinatown Chronicle, executed in 2008, the intricate, jumbled, frantic network of threads which expand across the surface of the canvas effectively evokes the maze of winding streets and roads; noises; languages; smells; and the remarkable and more insignificant details of a chaotic and lively urban area. As alluded to by the present work's title, Chinatown connects this piece to New York's Chinatown,  a neighbourhood in Lower Manhattan that is home to the largest enclave of Chinese people in the United States, and is known for its rich culture.


    Inspired by his teenage memories of tagging and the graffiti he documents near his studio and around the world, Parlá’s paintings are accumulations of texture, multiple marks and painterly incidents, bringing the city into the gallery as he offers viewers a direct encounter without the mediations of transit that normally condition our engagement with city walls.


    “Sometimes I will follow a map that belongs to a different city in order to end up in places that are random. Random acts like this are one of my starting points to select artifacts such as posters or to take photos to study in my studio. I collect fragments of advertisements that are already aged and torn and that have colours or texts that work for me. I like the ambiguity of fragments.”
    — José Parlá




    Jackson Pollock, Convergence, 1952
    Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
    © 2022 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



    The use of contrasting, vibrant colours and the apparently random pattern of lines of which Chinatown Chronicle is constituted nod to the work of Abstract Expressionists, and particularly to Jackson Pollock’s piece Convergence (1952). A comparison of the two paintings brings to light Parlá and Pollock’s similar striking ability to create a skilfully staged sense of confusion.


    A 'historical landscape painter' in the words of the art critic Greg Tate, Parlá has been celebrated internationally for the complex exuberance of his urban landscapes. His most recent exhibitions include a solo show at Gana Art Center in Seoul, (27 October 2022 – 4 December 2022), and the show Textures of Memory held by Ben Brown Fine Arts in Hong Kong (19 September 2019 – 4 November 2019). Chinatown Chronicle was first exhibited during his UK solo show “Adaptation / Translation”, at Elms Lesters Painting Rooms in London in 2008. 



    i Parlá, quoted in Sarah Osei, “’Random Acts are My Starting Points’: Artist José Parlá On Creating Textures of Memory”, Highsnobiety, 2019, online

    • Provenance

      Elms Lesters, London
      Extraordinary Objects, United Kingdom
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Elms Lesters Painting Rooms, José Parlá: Adaptation / Translation, 10 October - 8 November 2008


Chinatown Chronicle

signed, titled and dated 'José Parlá José Parlá "Chinatown Chronicle." © 2008' on the reverse
mixed media on canvas
61 x 91.7 cm. (24 x 36 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2008.

Full Cataloguing

HK$450,000 - 650,000 

Sold for HK$441,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2022