Tag Archives: Seyed Alavi

Words by Roads ~ part IV

This is the last one, located in my new hood at the Fruitvale Ave. exit of 580…

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They say a picture can tell a thousand words, but sometimes one word can convey something that no picture can.

I think it’s interesting how powerfully these murals communicate complex ideas in such simple visual fashion. They are classic examples of conceptual art, in which the idea takes precedence over the aesthetics.

Their beauty is found in their playfulness with language… adding the (N) in this instance completely changes the meaning of an everyday word, and forces us to think about our roles and responsibilities within this society… our democracy is only as strong as citizenry is well-informed.

The others are similarly clever and thought provoking. This is the nature of much of Seyed Alavi’s artwork, which is “engaged with the poetics of language and space and their power to shape reality.”

When these pieces  were first installed in 1992 they were intended to be temporary works.  I, for one, am glad they remain all these years later.

Please see previous two posts for more in depth discussion of Alavi, the creation of these pieces, and others.

Words By Roads ~ part III

“Art is inseparable from life.” ~ Seyed Alavi

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This is a continuation from yesterday’s post eRACISM

KQED did a wonderful feature on Seyed Alavi in a recent edition of Spark. Not only does Alavi discuss the creation of these murals (one of his first public art projects), explaining of this one, “You need to put your ‘I’ in [this world] to make a difference,” but he also discusses several others including his Emeryville project Signs of the Times, also a collaborative effort with local students.

Anyone who’s been to Emeryville has undoubtedly seen the striking yellow and black utility boxes featuring manipulated stick figures in unusual, comical, or paradoxical positions… one figure has a jigsaw puzzle piece for a head, one juggles three bowling ball heads, one kneels in front of a giant question mark, etc. I have always loved this project but never knew who was responsible for these clever and thought-provoking images until watching this episode…

If you have the time to watch the full episode, a recent project done for the Exploratorium in San Francisco is featured at the end, and it’s simply fascinating. The piece explores the concept of liminality – “a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective, conscious state of being on the ‘threshold’ of or between two different existential planes.” (Wikipedia) Talk about deep.

eRACISM

One of a series of murals featured under various 580 freeway exits in East Oakland. My favorite of the series (Park Blvd exit) was featured awhile back… Invisible Colors.

This one’s my next favorite and is located at the High Street exit…

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There are four in total from a project titled Words by Roads which was commissioned through the City of Oakland’s Public Art Program in 1991.

Directed by Iranian born conceptual artist Seyed Alavi, the artworks were created in collaboration with sixteen students from Skyline, Fremont, and Oakland High Schools.

Alavi, who’s known for the use of language in his works, conducted creative workshops with the students “to communicate ideas about the power of language… and the social and cultural nature of public art.”

He saw himself acting merely as a facilitator and credits the ideas and sketches for the murals exclusively to the students. “These students felt racism was the most important issue to comment on and decided on four phrases… to be printed on highly visible locations in their neighborhoods.” (City of Oakland Public Art Program)

You’ll have to check back to see the others…  I’ll have more info on the artist too.

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