José Parlá’s ‘Isthmus’ Exhibition at ISTANBUL ’74


Brooklyn-based, Cuban-American artist José Parlá’s « Isthmus » exhibition will be on view starting in September 2019 at Istanbul ’74. Here is the artist’s statement:

When I first visited Istanbul in 1999, its people and their beautiful environment fascinated me.  I felt an immediate connection to the city as somehow it also reminded me of Havana, Cuba, the home of my parents.  The energy of the Bosporus River, the walls of the town and the calligraphy inscribed on temple walls were inspiring at first sight.

My interest in calligraphy comes from when I started writing on walls at the young age of ten in my hometown of Miami, Florida.  The year was 1983, and the style of writing I was captivated by was wild and spreading out through cities all over the world.  Over the last thirty-six years, I have set out to establish a style of painting that transforms the language of the street into a hybrid form of abstraction and urban realism.

During my first trip to Turkey, I wondered what life was like for the calligraphers of the Ottoman Empire, and I always dreamed of doing a project that would allow me to pay homage to a culture of masterful calligraphers in world history.

The title Isthmus is a symbolic one for me as it means a narrow strip of land with the sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land. The City of Istanbul, with its infamous river, is part of a strip of land connecting two continents, Asia and Europe, physically, symbolically, and metaphorically connecting the East and the West.

For this exhibition, I am presenting a series of calligraphic works on paper, paintings, and ceramics that pay homage to the history of calligraphy in Turkey and imagines what calligraphy from my part of the world could look like and represent to future generations.”

Description of ISTANBUL’74: Turkey’s leading arts and culture platform ISTANBUL’74 was brought to life in 2009 by Creative Director Demet Muftuoglu Eseli and Filmmaker Alphan Eseli. Taking its name and inspiration from the city that culturally and geographically bridges two continents. ISTANBUL’74 organizes cultural events, festivals, workshops, exhibitions and artistic collaborations with creative thought leaders. In 2018, ISTANBUL’74 opened a second office in New York and continues its operations in both cities. ISTANBUL’74 produces and curates exhibitions for a wide range of established, international artists of various disciplines, bringing those exhibitions to cities around the world.

Since 2010, ISTANBUL’74 has also been curating and organizing The IST. International Arts & Culture Festival (IST. Festival), an annual, multidisciplinary festival that connects international leaders in art, design, fashion, film, music, literature and architecture with their counterparts in Turkey, promoting open dialogue and creative collaborations around the globe. [. . .]

ISTANBUL’74 is made up of several distinct components: ‘74GALLERY, an art gallery that produces exhibitions and private events with local and international artists; ‘74STUDIO, a full service creative branding and communications agency; ‘74FILM, a production house and studio focusing on video conceptualization, development and production; and ‘74ESCAPE, an online diary showcasing travel experiences and insights from around the world, with a concept store that features special collaborations and limited edition collections.

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