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June 24, 2014

JR & José Parlá: Wrinkles of the City

The Freewheeling Artists On How They Transformed the Streets of Havana

Artists and longtime collaborators José Parlá and JR traveled to Havana, Cuba for Wrinkles of the City, a global series of public art installations and expressionistic murals centered around enigmatic portraits of the residents in each metropolis, from Berlin to Shanghai. This leg acted as a homecoming for Brooklyn-based Parlá, whose own parents emigrated from Cuba to Miami where he was born. Commissioned by the 2012 Havana Biennale, today’s self-directed film captures the duo’s citywide project that ran from Old Havana to Vedado, offering both artists the opportunity to engage with a city that has profound personal resonance. “Using any kind of media to express myself has always been key to my work,” says the Paris-born, NYC-based JR. “I’m glad we made the film to better understand our journey through this fascinating place that is La Havana.”

You’re both multilingual expatriates with similar backgrounds—what impact does that have on your art?
José Parlá: JR’s work is a commentary that is sharing something positive with the present or with history. Working together as we have has been organic because we both think alike. If I can't make something happen, JR steps in, and if he can’t, then I communicate it. In Cuba we spoke Spanish, Portuguese, French and Japanese, inventing ways to share.

JR: José and I have that in common, we always feel language is not a barrier. I guess it’s because we speak with our own hands a lot. 

How does your work in one discipline inform the other?
JP: The stories of walls are the memories of society. If I use photography it is to document places and people that later inform my paintings as well, with regards to colors and the mood or history of a painting’s direction. When I paint very layered and large-scale calligraphic paintings, the language is informed by gestural, free-associative movements, which I think of as a dance that envelopes the work.

What’s your favorite highlight from the trip?
JP:
When we were making the largest wall work of the whole project, JR guided me from across a field while I was suspended on a crane. It was hard to see with the sun glaring in my eyes. We finished the whole thing and celebrated the whole night.

JR: The people we met, especially the couple who we photographed and pasted up. We stayed in touch with them and they have been such an inspiration to both of us.—Timothée Verrecchia

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Fogo Island: Artist Retreat

Modernist Studios Are a Hub of Creativity in Remote Newfoundland

The rugged coastal landscapes and arresting architectural contrasts of Fogo Island off the northeast coast of Newfoundland are captured in this stark series shot by photographer Scott Chandler at nightfall. The small Canadian island has recently undergone a re-invigoration thanks largely to Zita Cobb’s Shorefast Foundation, an organization promoting art and tourism as Fogo’s future. In a project helmed by commissioning architect Todd Saunders, the foundation built six striking, modernist studios across the island to house visiting artists for residencies granted through the Fogo Island Arts Corporation. “I think local people enjoy the reinterpretation of our traditional built heritage into contemporary forms,” explains Cobb. “You almost see the passing of time as you move your focus from the past to ‘the now’—the old and the new give meaning to each other.”  Fogo Island joins a growing list of remote retreats, like Est-Nord-Est in the village of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli in Quebec focused on the creation of contemporary sculpture, and the tiny Rabbit Island in Lake Superior some three miles north of Michigan, a 91-acre modern-day utopian escape for artists and architects alike. “Newfoundland is a whole different kind of rural landscape and feels really isolated from the rest of Canada,” says the Montreal-based Chandler. “Fogo Island is a more extreme version of that.”

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Spotlight

John Roberts: Eternal Tour

The Musician and Editor of The Travel Almanac Considers Sounds for the Itinerant Holiday Season

As many of us set off on journeys to see loved ones this winter, editor and creator of moody house tracks John Roberts reflects on the relationship between music and wunderlust, creating an exclusive NOWNESS mix that features Arthur Russell, Shintaro Sakamoto and The Smiths, and curating a selection of images from the first four issues of The Travel Almanac. Co-founded in 2011 by Roberts and his Dial Records label-mate Paul Kominek, aka Pawel, the publication focuses on the intimacies of the journey—the planes, trains, hotels and sites—seen through the eyes of such cultural icons as Will Oldham, David Lynch and Rinko Kawauchi. “Physical destinations, and the trips we take to get to them, often find their natural extension in a soundtrack,” says Roberts. “Certain songs seem to almost brand the mind with the distinctions of previously visited locations. The beauty of this is that after becoming conscious of song and place associations, it becomes possible to mentally travel to a desired destination. This can be as rewarding as a physical visit, due to the mind's tendency to bolster its contents with minor works of fiction, plastering over the holes of forgotten or unnoticed specificities. Some pieces of music are so evocative in their aural complexity that they may even allow temporary transportation to places untraversed in the physical world. It should come as no surprise then that these records are usually the ones worth holding on to.” Click here for Roberts' sonic itinerary.

The fourth issue of The Travel Almanac is out now. John Roberts’ second full-length album, “Fences Editions”, will come out on Dial Records in April, 2013. 

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