Today, Parlá's large works go for as much as a million dollars. But it wa sa long, hard road to success. He first moved to New York in the late '90s, living a struggling artist's life.
"I remember that time, even like not having a proper shower," he said. "I had a huge bucket, like I was in the third world, really, in Brooklyn. I went through pretty rough times, but happy because I was doing what I loved to do."
In fact, Parlá was invited to show his works in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris and London, all of it chronicled by his brother and best friend, Rey. But it wasn't until about ten years ago that New York dealers came calling.
His first big New York commission came from the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2012. A year later, Barclays Center, the huge sports and entertainment arena in Brooklyn, commissioned a piece. Parlá was selected, in part, because rap mogul Jay Z is a fan.
The High Museum of Art in Atlanta recently hosted Parla's first one-man museum show.
Curator Michael Rooks says he's understands why Parlá's work has started getting so much attention: "It's for me about this astonishing juxtaposition of color and line and form, and a painting that speaks to the past while also looking forward to the future."
Parlá just showed his work in Cuba, his old family homeland. And if New York was slow to accept him, he's got not one, but TWO important shows there this month.
And at age 42, with a growing list of high-profile pieces, Parlá believes he is creating work that will stand the test of time.
At the World Trace Center, Braver asked, "Does it hurt your feelings at all if people just walk in and they've oblivious, and they don't notice this beautiful thing you've made?"
No, said Parlá. "My feelings are beside the point," he laughed. "And you know what? If it doesn't get them coming it, it'll get them coming out!"
- GALLERY: The art of José Parlá
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