Parlá was born in South Florida to Cuban parents and spent the first years of his youth in Puerto Rico before returning to Miami at the age of nine. Parlá began painting in 1983 in the style of subway art. In 1988, he received a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. He then studied at The New World School of the Arts in Miami. However, he has remained true to his own unorthodox approach to painting.
Mostly known by the street artist name Ease, Parlá moved to New York in 1997 and painted alongside legendary Bronx artist Case 2, while exhibiting works with the Ink Heads and Barnstormers art collectives. He was featured in the “Boomerang” exhibition with Lee Quiñones and Rostarr (2003) and the two-person show “Pirate Utopias” in London with Futura, (2007). His work was selected by Agnes B. for the “New York Scene” exhibition in Paris (2003). In New York Manon Slome curated “Hollywood to the Street,” featuring his work with Mimmo Rotella (2004), and in 2006 worked together with Mrs. Slome and Al Moran ( of OHWOW ) to exhibit during Art Basel Miami Beach his solo show titled "Cityscapes", which published his first artist catalog. In 2009 Takashi Murakami of Kai Kai Ki Ki gallery and Hiroshi Fujiwara of honeyee.com selected his work for the “Hi & Lo” exhibition in Tokyo.
Major recent exhibitions include, Stages for the Live Strong Foundation at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris, and Deitch Projects, New York, The New Grand Tour showing in Hong Kong and Beijing, Adaptation / Translation solo show at Elms Lesters Painting Rooms in London, Layered Days with Cristina Grajales gallery in Soho, New York, Reading through Seeing with Ooi Botos Gallery in Hong Kong, China, and O.H.W.O.W's annual group show, It Ain't Fair exhibition during Art Basel Miami Beach 2009.
Parlá’s paintings reflect the way in which cities function as palimpsests. He creates a visual narrative of his experiences in different cities by drawing inspiration from urban landscapes, and the energy and memories that inform him. Through the multilayered, psycho-geographical, calligraphic nature of his work, he embeds these stories in his paintings and invites the viewer to discover his vision of the environment. By incorporating narratives and memories into his art, Parlá becomes a new kind of novelist; a modern storyteller who uses gestures, writing, and found advertisments to reconstruct complex stories and anatomies. In 1983, Parlá began to experiment with writing on canvas in order to adapt and translate his wall paintings and the derelict environment of urban cityscapes into a more permanent medium. José Parlá describes his work as “segmented realities” or “memory documents”; these ideas form a personal philosophy of his work he calls “Contemporary Palimpsests.” Each painting bears the name of the location or experience from which it draws its source.