Deadline Detroit | The artist returns from the brink of death with a series inspired by Detroit streetscapes
Downtown Detroit and the city beyond serve as inspiration for a New York artist’s first work since an episode of Covid plunged him into a months-long coma that doctors failed to report. didn’t expect him to recover.
The New York Times covered this weekend the long journey of New York-based José Parlá to produce “Polarities,” a series of seven abstract paintings currently on display at the Library Street Collective.
Parlá, … whose work is in the permanent collections of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, and the British Museum, first visited Detroit in 2006, not knowing anyone here, simply seeking walking around and taking pictures. He returned in 2018, after meeting JJ and Anthony Curis, owners and founders of Library Street Collective, who invited him to witness the changes the city was going through. Parlá then decided to dedicate a body of work to Detroit, which would likely have debuted in 2020 had it not been for the pandemic. The idea was further discarded when Parlá contracted Covid-19 in early 2021, falling so ill that he was hospitalized, intubated and placed in an artificial coma for three months. Halfway through, he suffered a stroke and a massive cerebral hemorrhage. His doctors told his brother, Rey, that they did not expect him to survive.
“It’s a miracle that I’m talking to you here,” Parlá, 49, told me last month.
The artist, of Cuban origin, is inspired by the streets of the city and finds “dignity in the accidents of time”, writes the Times. One, titled “Detroit/La Habana,” appears as a nifty depiction of the side of a weathered building — filled with faded graffiti, peeling paint and a faded flyer.
Memory and resurrection are both in mind here. On a weekday afternoon, the hum of construction drones regularly echoes downtown, as the rapid development of the past decade continues to revive downtown Detroit after decades of bankruptcy and population flight. … But just five miles to the east, entire neighborhoods remain pockmarked with abandoned homes and crumbling storefronts—swaths of land distinguished only by the height of their overgrown weeds. Stretches of its avenues bear the scars of Detroit’s dispossession: crumbling bricks, weather-worn concrete, sun-bleached advertisements captured in time.
… He located these textures all over the world – in the Bronx, New York; Napoli, Italy; Havana – translating these degraded environments into deeply felt portraits of human movements.
The plays will be downtown at 1274 Library St. until August 24.