Tag Archives: Words by Roads

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.


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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