MANILA, Philippines – Fresh off his first solo exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art, U.S.-based Filipino artist JEFRË is once again cementing his legacy in the international scene after winning a multimillion-dollar sculpture competition by the St. John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida.
Announced on July 22, 2021, by the Jacksonville Downtown Investment Authority (DIA), a sculpture proposed by JEFRË is slated to become the new centerpiece of the 4-acre Jacksonville River Park. A total of 14 other architecture and design firms partnered with renowned artists from around the world to present their creative concepts to the city. JEFRË was part of the One Park Jax team put together by Chicago-based firm Perkins & Will.
With two teams very close in the final scoring of the competition, JEFRË’s work instantly stood out and became the difference maker, generating the most public feedback out of all the design proposals.
The inclusion of that monumental piece of art [by JEFRË] really threw Perkins and Will over the top,” shared DIA CEO, Lori Boyer during the virtual awarding ceremony. “To me, it becomes the symbol of Downtown and it becomes the gathering place for everyone.
The One Park Jax Vision
Throughout his career, JEFRË has earned a reputation for creating captivating and distinctive public artworks in parks and other urban spaces that have become icons for these cities. His sculptural concept for Jacksonville is no different. Inspired by St. Johns River, which stretches throughout Florida and into the City of Jacksonville, JEFRËs stainless steel sculpture is a literal reflection of the city’s history.
The sculpture is set to be 151 feet tall, or 1822 inches, which corresponds to Jacksonville’s founding date in June 5, 1822. The total linear length of the sculpture is 310 feet, which represents the length of St. Johns River in nautical miles.
JEFRË used these numbers to form abstract images and shapes to form the sculpture. The initial image he had in mind was that of an anchor, with a series of nautical knots in the shape of a heart, the figure eight, and an “X.” From an elevated angle, it looks like it spells out “JAX,” which is short for Jacksonville. And from another angle, it could be seen as “I love X” or “I love Jacksonville”.
“That’s the beauty of public art. It creates dialogue and discussion,” shares JEFRË. “Everyone has an interpretation for it. It’s called “Jax,” but it’s not a sign, font, or letters. It’s a fluid form of water rising up from the river into the city skyline that forms curving shapes reminiscent of the oxbows and bends of the St. John’s River. From every view point, the river form is a completely different sculpture and reflection of a timeline in history. If you think it looks like Jax then great, but if you think it looks like a heart, an anchor , a figure eight knot, a letter “J” , lox, lex, love, steel spaghetti or paperclip then that’s fine as well. “
Diversity of the people of Jacksonville and their direct relationship to the river has changed numerous times over the course of history and will continue to do so. “It’s my hope that it will have a similar effect on how people will interpret and engage with the sculpture today, tomorrow, and forever into the future, just like the river and the “Jax” icon is a container of memory,” he adds.
Defining Cities through Public Art
JEFRË’s vision for the sculpture is to create an icon for the city, one that is not complex but has a history that the community that lives there will be proud of. And creating these icons has always been JEFRË’s passion.
“Cities are always defined by public art. Just like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York City,” he shares.
JEFRË hopes that the Jacksonville sculpture will establish the city’s skyline and become more than just a symbol of the community, but an icon that the world will know and remember Jacksonville by.
Representation of Filipinos and Filipino Artists
Jacksonville, Florida is home to more than 13,000 Filipinos. The competition was a celebrated opportunity for JEFRË, who had the chance to showcase Filipino artistry and creativity on an international stage, with the full-fledged support of the community.
JEFRË’s proposed sculpture is valued at $12-18 million and is expected to be completed by 2023. Follow JEFRË on Instagram (@JEFRE_artist) and ONE PARK JAX team (@oneparkjax) to see more of his creations and progress on the sculpture.
JEFRË, born Jefre Figueras Manuel, is an Orlando-based Filipino-American artist best known for crafting life-size public art pieces in cities around the globe. He’s passionate about transforming cities through icons that represent their histories. His works tap into local culture and its surroundings, creating a modern, stand-out piece that attracts immense public attention. HIs most recognizable works in the Philippines include the Tree of Life in Robinsons Place Naga, the Sculpture Contour Series at SM Aura in Bonifacio Global City, The Victor at Robinsons Bridgetowne, Hometown Heroes at Double Dragon, and Time in SM Megamall.