Adaptation/Translation – Elms Lesters Painting Rooms
I went to see Adaptation/Translation, an exhibition of work by the Brooklyn based artist José Parlá at the Elms Lesters Painting Rooms in Flitcroft Street, London last night. For anyone who has never been to the building, it is an amazing space. Aside from the gallery space itself, there are two huge scenic painting rooms with massive motorised stretchers, which can be used to paint large scale theatre back-drops. I think the largest stretcher is around 20 square metres. I was lucky enough to do work experience there many years ago as the gallery owner, Paul Jones, is an old friend of my father.
The show itself was really inspiring. The work is mostly paintings and drawings, but there is also a few photographs. I’ve seen some of his work at the gallery before although only in group shows. This is the first solo show he has had at the gallery and, as a result, the scale of the work is larger than I remember.
I’ve often seen José Parlá’s work described as ‘street art’ or ‘urban art’ but I think that this description is not entirely acurate and actually does it a little disservice. I don’t think I’d put him in quite the same category as, say, an artist like Banksy. Although the urban aesthetic is clearly prominent, there are obviously many other influences on his work, not least Islamic calligraphy, which is evident in most of the work in the show. Technically the work has a very painterly quality in the tradition of abstract and abstract expressionist painting and, in many ways, this is more prominent than the influence of graffiti.
I bought a really nice book of his work, also entitled Adaptation/Translation, that the gallery have published to coincide with the exhibition which I had it signed by the artist. It’s sounds a little pricey at £90 but it’s exquisitely produced with some gatefolds and oversized inserts of some of his work. The book is hard bound in a limited edition of 1000 copies with a foreword by the aforementioned Paul Jones, and a critical introduction by Michael Betancourt. If you want a signed copy you can still do so as there’s a book signing at the gallery this Saturday (October 11th) between 11.00am and 1.00pm. I’ll post some pictures of the book up here soon.
Entry is free and the show runs from today (10th October) to Saturday, 8th November 2008, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 12noon-6pm, Thursday 12noon-9pm.
Update – Photos from the Adaptation/Translation Catalogue