JOSÉ PARLÁ: AMISTAD AMÉRICA
José Parlá’s commission, Amistad América, is the artist’s most ambitious work to date and represents the first painting acquired by Landmarks. For this project, Parlá’ transformed a 25 x 160-foot wall in Rowling B. Hall—a graduate education building for the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin— into a sweeping 4,000 square foot site-specific visual landscape. The mural was conceived as a narrative that evokes Austin’s natural environment and its urban cityscape, and it features Parlá’s characteristic traces of collage, pulled impasto surfaces, and signature calligraphic marks. In imagining Amistad América, Parlá was inspired by the history and natural landscape of Texas, whose name in Spanish, Tejas, derives from the Native American Caddoan word for “friends.”
Amistad América renders the city of Austin through Parlá’s eyes, with a palette that evokes its vast skies, abundant nature, and pulsing urban core. The painting suggests a continental map and routes that connect Austin to a much larger ecology. It also contains fragments of calligraphic lettering, including three key words partially obscured by thick masses of color: Austin, Guadalupe, and King. These not only locate the mural physically at the intersection of Austin’s Guadalupe Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, but also acknowledge its symbolic position as a place of Latinx and African American history and culture.
Amistad América conjures Austin itself while situating the city within the larger geopolitics of the Americas. The title makes that connection concrete: La Amistad was a nineteenth-century Spanish trading ship that plied the Caribbean. In 1839 its African slave cargo famously mutinied, eventually re-establishing their liberty. Parlá chose the word both to commemorate this turbulent history and to celebrate its conciliatory and optimistic resonance: from Spanish, Amistad América translates to Friendship America.
Nisa Barger, Assistant Director for Collections, Landmarks, [email protected]
Rey Parlá, Parlá Studios, www.joseparla.com, [email protected]