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Sneak peek: Major new public artwork on UT campus

Landmarks program to unveil massive José Parlá mural

A man in hardhat and yellow safety vest working on painting on scaffolding
José Parlá, in residence at Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin, 2017
Photo by Rey Parlá

A site-specific, monumental mural that internationally renowned artist José Parlá say is his most ambitious to date will soon be revealed at Robert B. Rowling Hall, the new graduate education building for the McCombs School of Business.

Landmarks, The University of Texas at Austin’s (also ambitious and important) public art program, will unveil Parlá’s Amistad América on Friday, Jan. 26. The 4,000-square-foot mural is inspired by the “natural and cultural landscape of Texas and the Americas,” Parlá wrote in an artist’s statement. Beginning by “painting abstract shapes of broken wall surfaces resembling the outline of maps and borders between nations,” he wrote, he then added “[c]alligraphic flourishes [that] suggest our civilization’s continual struggle with migratory traces, trade, and cultural exchanges that harm the natural world and form a charged political climate.”

Parlá used paint, plaster, and found ephemera to create Amistad América . 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. Boulevard and Guadalupe Street where the mural at Rowling Hall will live permanently,” he wrote.

José Parlá, in residence at Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin, 2017
Photo by Rey Parlá

Rowling Hall anchors of the McCombs School of Business and an extension of the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center, which is undergoing a significant renovation and expansion. Parlá’s mural, sited at the grand entrance to the Zlotnik Family Ballroom, will be a major feature of business-school building, designed by Ennead with Jacobs Engineering.

José Parlá, Detail of Amistad América
Photo by José Parlá. Courtesy of Landmarks, the public art program at the University of Texas at Austin, 2017

The commissioning of Parlá’s mural was initiated by UT’s Landmarks program, one of the most significant public art programs to emerge at a U.S. university. The collection—which includes commissions and acquisitions of works by Michael Ray Charles, Ann Hamilton, Sol LeWitt, Marc Quinn, Ben Rubin, Nancy Rubins, and James Turrell, as well as 28 sculptures on long-term loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art— is on view throughout UT’s 433-acre main campus collection. An important aspect of the program, which seeks to enhance campus aesthetics as well as enable learning and instruction, is an ongoing, percent-for-art allocation that ensures the collection develops in tandem with the rapid expansion of the campus.