Artist statement: Amistad América is a monumental site-specific painting commissioned by Landmarks for The University of Texas at Austin.

In creating Amistad América, I am inspired by the natural and cultural landscape of Texas and the Americas. The Spanish translation of the state’s name, Tejas, derives from the Native American Caddoan word táy-sha, which means “friends.” In Spanish, Amistad means “friendship.”

For this project, I have continued to work with my interest in the history of migration and began by painting abstract shapes of broken wall surfaces resembling the outline of maps, and borders between nations. Calligraphic flourishes suggest our civilization’s continual struggle with migratory traces, trade, and cultural exchanges that harm the natural world and form a charged political climate.

From the Cognitive Revolution (c.70,000 BCE) when Homo-Sapiens evolved imagination to modern times, art in its endless visual forms has given us clues to how humans record, behave and perceive the meaning of our lives. Art has the power to be a tool for positive change and resistance against injustice in a world where no condition is permanent. In painting I seek abstraction and feeling as a form of communication to provoke open diplomatic conversation.

My process in this project started out by making a study in my Brooklyn studio using paint, plaster, and found ephemera. The work also incorporates transparencies of color and engraved lines that act as close-ups of city grids like the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Guadalupe Street in Austin where the mural at Rowling Hall will live permanently. By acknowledging these geographical and lingual origins, my painting references the rich and turbulent cultural history of the Americas.

José Parlá, Brooklyn 2017

Amistad América is commissioned by Landmarks for the Robert B. Rowling Hall, McCombs School of Business – The University of Texas at Austin.