José Parlá

American, born 1973

Amistad América

Acrylic, plaster, and ink on canvas 304 x 1947.75 in.
Commission, Landmarks, The University of Texas at Austin, 2018
Location: Robert B. Rowling Hall (RRH) Level B4 GPS: 30.282218, -97.741398

More Information

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.

Bibliographic Highlights

Parlá, José. Surface Body/Action Space. Bologna: Damiani, 2015. Exhibition Catalog.

Parlá, José, and Clara Astiasarán. Wrinkles of the City: Havana, Cuba. Bologna, Italy: Damiani, 2012.

Parlá, José, and Michael Betancourt. Adaptation Translation. London: Elms Lesters, 2008. Exhibition Catalog.

Parlá, José, Laurie Ann Farrell, and Storm Janse van Rensburg. José Parlá: Roots. Bologna, Italy: Damiani, 2017. Exhibition Catalog.

Parlá, José, and Jonathan Lee Fox. José Parlá: Walls, Diaries, Paintings. New York: Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, 2011. Exhibition Catalog.

Parlá, José, and Michael Rooks. José Parlá: Segmented Realities. Atlanta: High Museum, 2015. Exhibition Catalog.

Parlá, José, Bryce Wolkowitz, Dieter Buchhart, Lara Pan, and Brian Currid. José Parlá: in medias res. Bologna, Italy: Damiani, 2014.

To watch a Q&A between José Parlá and art critic Carlo McCormick, email

View José Parlá's website. 

Project History

Landmarks commissioned José Parlá to create a site-specific, monumental mural for the atrium of Robert B. Rowling Hall. Amistad América is Parlá’s largest mural to date and the first painting acquired by Landmarks.

Funding for the commission was provided by the capital improvement project for Robert B. Rowling Hall at the McCombs School of Business. Numerous individuals lent their support to this project and Landmarks would like to give special thanks to the following:


Andrée Bober and Landmarks
Douglas Dempster and the College of Fine Arts
Gregory Fenves and the Office of the President
Jay Hartzell and the McCombs School of Business
Landmarks Advisory Committee
James Shackelford and Capital Planning and Construction
David Rea and the Office of Campus Planning and Facilities Management
Campus Master Planning Committee

Project Team

Nisa Barger, project manager, Landmarks
Andrée Bober, curator and director, Landmarks
Mark Brooks, Capital Planning and Construction
Coburn & Company
DPR Construction
Duggal Visual Solutions
Ennead Architects
Jacobs Engineering
José Parlá, artist
Rey Parlá, Parlá Studios
Vault Fine Art Services
Catherine Williams, Silver Lining Art Conservation
Eldon Wood, Project Management and Construction Services

Special Thanks

Alison Berg, AT&T Hotel and Conference Center
Susie Brown, McCombs School of Business
Christine Burdell, McCombs School of Business
Sarah Canright, Department of Art and Art History
Holland Chaney, intern, Landmarks
Pat Clubb, former Vice President for University Operations
Deb Duval, event coordinator
Thomas Gilligan, former Dean of McCombs School of Business
Eric Hirst, McCombs School of Business
Carlo McCormick, curatorial contributor
Chris Mendoza, Parlá Studios
Jeff Melton, McCombs School of Business
Ted Hibler, AT&T Hotel and Conference Center
Emmy Laursen, communications, Landmarks
Jennalie Lyons, development, Landmarks
Marla Martinez, Associate Vice President for Financial and Campus Services
Bob Rawski, former Office of Facilities Planning and Construction
Ed Redondo, Capital Planning and Construction
Tom Rice, AT&T Hotel and Conference Center
Christopher Ruggeri, McCombs School of Business
Stefan Ruiz, music
Gary Susswein and University Communications
Stephanie Taparauskas, development, Landmarks
Michael Uyeda, Capital Planning and Construction
Amanda Wilkes, Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery
Bryce Wolkowitz, Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery
Catherine Zinser, education, Landmarks

Activity Guides

silhouette of mural
José Parlá
American, born 1973
Amistad América




Subject: Texture and pattern
Activity: Make a finger painting using unusual materials
Materials: Paper, paint palette or paper plates, tempera paint, paint-safe toys and scrap materials, plastic sheet, and tape
Vocabulary: Pattern, shape, texture

silhouette of mural
José Parlá
American, born 1973
Amistad América



Subject: Line and pattern
Activity: Scratchboard drawings
Materials: Scratchboard (or make your own!); tools to scratch the surface, like pencils, pens, toothpicks, spoons, or forks
Vocabulary: Line, pattern, texture

silhouette of mural
José Parlá
American, born 1973
Amistad América



Subject: Collage
Activity: Create a word collage
Materials: Magazines, paper, scissors, glue, crayons, or markers
Vocabulary: Collage, symbolism, abstract