Sally A. Edwards has had a long time friendship with artists and brothers, José and Rey Parlá. Based between Brooklyn and Japan, Rey is a modern day Man Ray creating stunning, intricate pieces of work. Here, Rey and Sally talk art, family and valuable friendship.
Interview by Sally A. Edwards.
Art by Rey Parlá
Rey Parlá is one half my favourite brothers from Brooklyn. You’ll know José as we have been long time supporters and he’s got himself pretty world renowned over the years.
José is known for large scale pieces, while Rey focuses in using materials including photographic negatives to work with and on to then create his unique pieces. Think of him as a contemporary Man Ray.
Rey creates between New York and Japan and has made several solo shows in both cities, all with great receptions. His debut solo show was entitled, ‘Borderless’ and was proudly unveiled at Happy Lucky Nø 1 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Rey then went on to present ‘Intentions’ at Clear Edition and Gallery in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo.
For the latter, Rey explains he worked with “light, color, line, self-examination, self-reflection of photographic objects and their own pictorial conditions, and their possibilities. In other words, these are objects presented - they are only representing themselves, and not the real world.
“Intuition and chance by choice play a big role in the making of [my] works, and although the pieces are not about me, I feel they are autonomous like me and act as time capsules for the viewers by assisting them in creating new worlds.”
Rey says of his works, “They do what they want and don’t adhere to what “photography” is supposed to do. They are free like me - you could say that’s a state of mind and a “perspective is reality” view of the world.”
Rey has a strong bond with his family and all have solid, long-lasting friendships. Sarah and I can happily attest to this, as we go back 15 years now. We’ll discuss this more below.
So when it was time for Rey’s solo debut show, he had a very enjoyable experience, “I had been making new works for a year when my dear friend and artist Teresita Fernandez introduced me to Liane Fredel, Director at Happy Lucky No 1 and preparing for that moment and several after had been mostly very focused and with quiet work habits. I was honored to be introduced by Teresita who I have admired and highly respect since discovering one of her lectures back at Florida International University, our alma mater. The Borderless show preparation was much more involved. In a group setting, it always comes down to the placement of works in what I always feel is a last minute process full of excitement and great energy with friends and colleagues. For the most part, the dialogue with the works never stops from birth to physical objects. I enjoy the process of pairing, their multiplicity, and the curating arrangements.”
Upon opening, “the immense support from family and great friends was truly magical,” says Rey. “The ‘all eyes on you’ pressure was cancelled out by a fluid camaraderie of sharing the same stage.”
You have a lovely bond with your brother, José. How would you describe him and your relationship?
"We are thankful every day to have each other and creatively support one another by remaining critically positive about what we each make or collaborate on. José is truly a magical individual, artist and human being. He is loved by many and as his brother that of course makes me and our family very happy, and proud of all his achievements."
Your wife is an artist too, you must all really inspire and encourage each other, what would you say is the main component of this you're most proud of?
"Inspiration comes from all directions. Mika is the love of my life and my wife, she encourages me daily and like my brother José, she is a trusting critical eye for everything we do. She collaborated with Japanese architectural firm OnDesign in a live/work space we built in Tokyo. We positively influence each other constantly and feel proud of many goals we’ve been able to achieve together, most recently I am very proud of it and of Mika’s vision for us to live and work between New York and Japan. She has the touch and an incredibly aesthetic sensibility for detail."
You and José have a fantastic network and we have so many mutual friends, what do you think it is about everyone that creates such respect and longevity in all our relationships?
"Mutual respect is the answer to everything. I feel this is why our network of friends are more than that, they are family because they too understand respect, authentically caring and valuing what we each make speaks of the individual’s level of commitment, of each other, which produces I feel a different kind of respect that speaks to others in the same way in return."
Sarah and I have created a campaign called 'Artists for Artists' to encourage creatives to support each other and come together to do more with their skills and realize ambitions. What has been the best encouragement and support or advise you've been given that's really pushed you along with your work and career?
"The best encouragement for being an artist I received was from my parents, my wife Mika, my kids that keep me up on my toes every day, and my wonderful brother José, who has always been a collaborator and supportive of my ideas. I am sure I have been given advice by many, but there are other key figures in our lives like many dear friends, artists, and gallery dealers who have been incredibly supportive too in many different ways, I am deeply thankful and grateful - you know who you are. My friends Ken, Taku and Yoichi have also been very supportive and encouraging in Tokyo – I am also grateful to them for making my show a reality. There has been - I am sure, a bunch of other advice, but all of that is worthless without consistent passion, without this it’s like you’re just a book on the shelf, you have to open that book, and in the words of my father, “devour it.” A ton of patience and tolerance also always help. My godfather, an old style Cuban gentleman always said, “when you run out of patience, get some more, when you run out again, do it all over again and get some more.”
Art is becoming increasingly important in the current climate. How do you see it helping society and culture and how do you see art and creativity assisting in more positive movements and turning points?
"Art has always been a means out of poverty. Art is a polymath of positive effects and possibilities, I would say in general, which affects us all directly and indirectly, sometimes in unseen ways for the better. Art is and can be complicated, it is so much more than that and is only part of the answer of what we seek. The “art industry” is composed of many moving parts that help society and culture with many great and fantastic contributions through philanthropy, but also in its diversity of perspectives and messages to expand needed dialogue. Art is a means of negotiation to a compromise for all of society. Art is a marriage where you have to communicate and listening to the opposite side and remain open to new ideas. This is how it helps us all, but it can’t do its job when it is censored. We must be willing and ready to listen to the other side too, to reach out peacefully, and see what exactly is being said that could have the potential to benefit everyone. Carl Sagan said it best, at the moment all we have is this “pale blue dot.” Art is only a semicolon in any contemporary turning point, but it is a key and emphasising moving part of the grammar and equation for a global message of peace and collaboration.
There are gazillions being invested in technology in R&D. While some are fantastic, we think it's so important there are still many things with genuine human touches, like the arts and works adding character to people's lives not only in homes and in buildings, but exhibitions for learning and bringing people together. You're obviously very hands on, do you see real art having a different currency, value and place in the future?
"This all depends on how we define “real art.” In my work, my intentions are to remain open-ended to experimentation both in the analogue and digital worlds and how these are able to collaborate to create a visual poetry that is borderless and haptic. Sometimes there are inherent semantics, but for the most part I try hard to stay within the realm of metaphors or Concrete Art. It’s rare to make things alone in the process of creation, but some of it is intentional and a given, sometimes it’s a conscious and obvious process in how any one artist works, for example, many of the traditional crafts in Japan and those previous generations are not being taken up by their millennial generations and that’s part of what is going on around the world with globalization. I am hopeful that these “traditions” also have an evolution in merging with new technologies, but I also remain positive that in order to do that younger generations will have to learn and study the original production processes to arrive at the final object and keep that history alive for any one culture.
We recently visited the MOA Museum of Art in Atami, Japan where the “New Material Research Laboratory” there is focused on researching materials and techniques used in ancient, medieval, and early modern times, and finding ways to incorporate them in contemporary architecture and pass them down to future generations, so yes, this is happening everywhere, perhaps a quiet revolution of the Internet of Things to come, the first phase. However, your comment and question have a deeper sub-text I feel dealing with figurative and narrative art vs. abstraction, what is made to attract the masses and pulls in the numbers vs. the not so obvious; both play a crucial role in their outreach in bringing people together, they just communicate in different ways and need to get to know one another as people do through the viewers’ interpretation and imagination, their messages; together are the only currency and value of art that make them equal in culture, at least that is the hope. Isolation and the fringe edges belong in the past and they should stay there.”