Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit the SCAD Museum and see the work of Jose Parla in person. I can't emphasize enough the difference it makes to see artwork in person as opposed to in a photograph, or on line. I keep going through pictures, both on line and on my camera to find some that really capture the feel of his work, but pictures just don't do them justice. What you can't see in even the best pictures is the heavy impasto and textures including broken pieces of stone and concrete that embellish both his paintings and his sculptural work. The textures add an element of depth and physicality to Parla's work that just doesn't translate in a photo.
Parla's artistic roots go back to a childhood as a graffiti artist on the streets of Miami. Today his work sells for as much as a million dollars and adorn places like the world trade center in new York. Harkening back to his roots, his work is composed of many layers of color and texture that resemble city walls littered with posters, advertisements and graffiti. Using a variety of colors painted one over the other creates a visual noise that is reminiscent of the city streets he is representing. Parla also often includes layers of calligraphic lettering in his work. While the words are not legible, they are definitely beautiful and entice the viewer to explore a little more closely in order to figure out some sort of secret. The elegant curves of his work compliment the thick layers and hard textures.
Seeing the textures in Parla's work first hand was a real treat, especially since I have been experimenting some with the use of impasto in my own work. I enjoy building up modeling paste on the surface of my work, but worry about keeping a balance so the texture doesn't overtake the painting.
One of my recents works using some texture.
In contrast to Parlas' work, I have also recently been exposed to the work of painter Susan Lichtman. Lichtman uses a very limited palette to create her colors and values, and often limits the values as well except for emphasis. She uses what she calls "red herrings" in her choice of value and color. By this I mean that she paints most of the painting in a very limited value range and emphasizes a few surprise areas with bright values and colors. She typically like to keep the actual figures somewhat obscured so the viewer slows down to move through the painting. You are drawn in by the highlighted area, and led to explore the dark to see what else is happening.
Lichtman works both from life and from memory to create fictitious interior narratives. She refers to them as fictitious because they are based on people who have come and gone from her home, but the scenes she depicts have never actually happens. Often she will even us blurred lines to imply movement and the passage of time in her work.
Lichtman paints areas of flat color with values strategically placed beside each other to create a sense of depth and movement that is quite surprising under such constraints. Surprisingly she starts her paintings focused on a small detail, typically a still life that interests her and builds the composition around that, working specific to general as opposed to the way most artists work - general to specific.
I think one of the things that draws me most to Lichtman's work is that it seems to be about the mundane. Simple spaces of everyday life approached in a simple way that draws the viewer in to make them want to know more of the story. While Lichtman uses a figurative narrative in her work, I prefer to simply allow the viewer to consider the space itself and bring to it whatever preconceived ideas they may have, and consider whatever narrative they may begin to imagine.
All of these concepts seem to be in stark contrast to Jose Parla's work, but I am intrigued but both artists none the less.