If you’ve passed by SM Megamall recently, you must have noticed a shiny new sculpture standing proud outside the building greeting Edsa commuters. It’s called Time Sculpture, a 12-meter tall work by Filipino-American public artist Jefre Manuel Figueras, or simply known as JEFRË.
The Time Sculpture depicts a man looking at his watch, a reminder from the artist of how precious time is, encouraging the riding public to make use of their idle time in traffic productively. Maybe read a book, for example, or catch-up on emails, or de-stress by scrolling thru TikTok.
The giant sculpture is part of JEFRË’s Baks Series, named after the phonetic pronunciation of the word “box” in American English. In this series, the artist’s figures are archetypes representing people who give life and character to cities around the world.
The sculpture, made with mirror stainless steel, has points established across the figure’s body. These points are connected by polyhedrons that create complex three-dimensional planes. For JEFRË, converting the statue’s head to a block connects the figures to urban architecture, and reinforces the truism that people are a city’s building blocks.
JEFRË is an award-winning public art practitioner based in Chicago, Illinois. His family’s roots are in San Pedro, Laguna and Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur. He creates public art to help identify cities and places. Each work is an opportunity to use art not only to lend beauty to an area but also to provide a sense of place for locals and visitors. Each work is also an opportunity to spark emotion from the ordinary spectator.
“As a Filipino-American who is both proud and aware of his heritage, I make it a point to apply that understanding of shared experiences into all my work,” JEFRË told Orange Magazine.
“Public art is incredibly powerful and dictates our personal relationships with our home cities. It’s a reflection of our past. With my work, I celebrate the past in a way that embraces the future.”
JEFRË studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Ohio State University, and Architectural Association in London. In 2012, he was named Emerging Artist of the Year and has won in various sculpture competitions in Washington DC, New Orleans, San Antonio, London, Rome and Miami.
Over the years, JEFRË has worked with popular clients like the French industrial designer Philippe Starck and the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. A heart attack at 35 almost put an end to what was a promising career trajectory but he was able to recover and get back on his feet. He then opened StudioJEFRË, his own independent outfit where he gets to produce functional public art.
Some of JEFRË’s works in the Philippines include “Talking Heads,” a permanent installation featuring six large sculptures in the lobby of SM Prime’s Five Ecom Center Building and larger-than-life sculptures of carabao, eagle, rooster, and tarsier at SM Aura Premier.
The idea that people create memories with his art is the most fulfilling part of his work, he told Metro.Style last year. “They become destinations. They become photographic destinations for cities. They become selfie locations. They generate foot traffic that help businesses around them. And I think most importantly, they’ve created special memories for people. The Beacon at Lake Nona, several years ago I saw pictures of someone proposing in front of it just as if you might propose in front of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty, or another major icon in a city. I think that gesture by a couple really touched me in the idea that I’m creating icons that have meaning and purpose.”