The abstract cameraless photographs on view in the exhibition Rey Parlá – Multiplicities stretch traditional notions of photography, taking viewers into a space of infinite co-creation.
Intuition, surprise and chance act as Parlá’s co-conspirators in works grounded in both process and philosophical inquiry.
Starting with 4×5 negatives, Parlá scratches and paints in what appears to be a painter’s hand, then scans negatives to make a final photograph. Although the majority of the work consists of pieces made in this way, ranging in size from approximately 20” x 17” to 53” x 43”, a singular painting and a series of reworked 4” x 5” negatives are also on view.
The painting initiates a clockwise tour around the gallery’s main room, where the large-scale pieces are housed. Its blue and green palette, a mixture of swaths of paint and thin lines, evokes a feeling of an abstracted aerial mapping of a lush planet earth. Although greens and blues are echoed in the remaining photographs in the room along with duotone works, a handful of pieces venture into a use of a full-color spectrum.
Parlá creates an asymmetrical tension in the work through what appears to be an intuitive approach to blotting, painterly gestures, and line drawing.
His use of lines in the work gives the pieces a sense of dimensionality through what could be abstract references to astronomical/astrological drawings, graph paper used in math classes pre-computers, or the geometry of weight bearing cables used in the construction of bridges. A pattern does not seem to emerge from Parlá’s method, instead, countless possible compositions are offered up to viewers, a reflection of the artist’s interests in pluralism and the erasure of boundaries.
His use of a raw negative as a starting point and a scanner as a concluding point move beyond both the limits of traditional printing and that of digital printing, offering another alternative.
Parlá’s small-scale works on 4×5” negatives in a smaller second room, offer even more intrigue. The painted negatives mounted on aluminum are framed with black matte, accentuating the possibility that Parlá is not only having a conversation with art history – Ellsworth Kelly and Lucas Samaras’s scratched polaroids – but also with the deep mystery of sacred geometry.
These smaller works offer a unique sense of texture and suggest the alluring draw of working one’s imagination into abstract intuitive gestures at such a small scale.
Although Parlá’s work is random in the sense that it involves chance and surprise in the present moment as colors blend, lines form, and compositions unfold; it is not random in the sense that it is clear Parlá has engaged for some time in a particular style of art practice and photographic experimentation.
Rey Parlá – Multiplicities is on view at Benrubi Gallery through May 12, 2018.