Artist Jefrë Opens His First West Coast Show in Hollywood During Frieze Los Angeles

Artist Jefrë Opens His First West Coast Show in Hollywood During Frieze Los Angeles

When Filipino American artist Jefrë suffered a life-altering heart attack at the age of 35, he shifted his career from urban design planning to modern art, a leap of faith that restructured his priorities and led him to welcome the ambiguity life throws at you. “I think after my heart attack and triple bypass, I realized the value of time—time to have a voice, time to influence, time to leave a mark, time to build a legacy,” he says. “I continue today with the same mindset and learned how to say no. I don’t have time to explore as much as I wish but it allows me to make quick confident decisions and to only work on projects that have a meaning and purpose.” Now, he is paying homage to that pivotal moment in his life, career and creative endeavors with a pop-up exhibition at The LA Art Box (LAAB) in West Hollywood, on view through March 20.

Brand Addition, 2022, Prescription Bottles & IV Bags. Photography by Francis Gum.

Visitors to the show are guided through the stanzas of Jefrë’s original poem “Heart to Heart,” which explores the ongoing themes of immigration, identity, elements of his heart disease and technology that permeates his work. His goal is to create common ground with his audience, despite differences in culture, gender, ethnicity and nationality. “Art is a voice to inspire,” he says. “I have been honored in so many ways by how people have reached out to me about being inspired by my art.”

The LAAB showcases Jefë’s human-scale sculpture installations called the “Baks Series,” which are metaphors for buildings. The artist realized that cities are not necessarily made of buildings, but their people and their emotions, so he created human sculptures in a range of emotions, from joy to love to anger, to convey the humanity of cityscapes. Also on view are examples of his previous work, including a series of sculptures inspired by emotion that have box-like heads, and a series merging white and brown rice on various canvases.

“The white and brown rice in the artwork Migration speaks on multiple levels,” he explains. It’s about “me being Asian American and trying to find a place in the Midwest as a child, and also the idea that culture is like the mixing of ideas.”

Baks Series, 2020. Stainless Steel Figures composed in positions of emotion.

Jefrë was born in Chicago and currently resides in Orlando, Florida, but his work has been showcased around the world, including large-scale, iconic pieces like “Reflection” (2010) in Philadelphia’s Unity Plaza, “Heaven’s Gate” (2019) in Manila and “The Beacon” and “Code Wall” (2014) in Orlando. He’s currently working on a new installation in the cities of Pasig and Quezon in the Philippines. The sculpture, called “The Victor,” is considered one of the world’s largest installations at 24-stories-high. It takes the form of a standing figure with raised arms and will be located at a bridge connecting the two cities.

“To be able to create the tallest sculpture in my homeland, the same size as statue of liberty, is definitely a defining moment,” he says. “But the sculptures I’ve created in rural areas have also allowed me to bring art that you would see in high end cities to areas and audiences that may not have access to larger cities.”

2022 Art Competition Winner, "JAX" Icon City of Jacksonville, Florida Completion Date: 2024. Photo by Artist JEFRË

In Los Angeles, The LA Art Box show is Jefrë’s first West Coast exhibition. Said cofounder of The LAAB, Bernie Bernardo: “In speaking with Jefrë, his background and motivation are so aligned with The LAAB’s values. I am personally proud to partner with Jefrë to showcase Filipino American talent.”