Site See: New Views in Old Town
An annual series of temporary Public-Art installations at Waterfront PARK
The City of Alexandria through the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities' Arts division, works to boost Alexandria’s reputation as an arts destination with world-class artwork that is unlike anything that can be experienced in the region.
The Site See series highlights Waterfront Park as a civic space, fostering community engagement and interactions with the temporary installations. The artwork is informed by the historic waterfront and neighboring community. The compelling, unique art attracts repeat visits from the metropolitan area and beyond.
The inaugural installation, Mirror Mirror by SOFTlab, drew thousands of people to Alexandria in 2019.
Site See 2020: Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies
Olalekan Jeyifous has been named the 2020 artist for Site See. His site-specific installation, Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies will be on view through November 2020.
Jeyifous’s installation is inspired by Alexandria’s rich and complicated industrial and merchant history. In its early history, Alexandria evolved from a village of farms and plantations to a prosperous port town. Once home to one of the largest domestic slave markets in the country, Alexandria became a major center for shipping and manufacturing and is now a vibrant urban destination with historic charm.
Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies seeks to stitch Alexandria’s story together, featuring symbols that represent Alexandria’s merchant and manufacturing history, including factories, tobacco warehouses, breweries and railways. The ground mural incorporates African American quilting and textile traditions, which are historically tied to storytelling and oral tradition. When viewed as a whole, the pattern becomes an abstract grid or map with the manufacturing icons appearing throughout. From this colorful and rich surface, four large figures arise and face the water. Ornate metal profiles are wrapped in sculptural seating platforms that are illuminated in low light.
A series of commissioned performances inspired by Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies will complement the art installation at Waterfront Park. The series will feature poets and spoken-word artists curated by Alexandria’s Poet Laureate KaNikki Jakarta, as well as movement-based performances by Tariq O’Meally.
Jeyifous was commissioned to create an original site-specific work inspired by Alexandria. He was selected by a task force and approved by the Alexandria Commission for the Arts.
About the Artist
Based in Brooklyn, Jeyifous has spent more than a decade creating large-scale artwork for public spaces. He was recently commissioned, along with Amanda Williams, to create the forthcoming monument for Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn. He previously created public art at the 2017 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California, Cleveland’s Public Square, and Starbucks’ flagship store in Chicago.
He received a bachelor’s of architecture degree from Cornell University. His work has been exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the MoMA, the Vitra Design Museum and the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. He received grants and fellowships from the New York Foundation of the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Brooklyn Arts Council. He’s completed artist residencies with the Headlands Center for the Arts, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and the Drawing Center’s Open Sessions program, and was a Wilder Green Fellow at the MacDowell Colony. Learn more at vigilism.com.
About the Title
“Wrought” means shaped, hammered, or manufactured, a reference to the sculptures in the installation. It holds dual meaning, also signifying transformation through adversity, struggle, or hardship.
“Knit” means to weave, stitch, or unite, a reference to the ground mural that is inspired by African-American narrative quilts. For this installation, it also alludes to the histories and futures Alexandria’s communities, inextricably intertwined.
“Labors” and “Legacies” employ multiple meanings from slave labor, to industrial labor, to the general work it takes for communities to evolve and grow. They also speak to the cultural inheritances that shape and define the city as it continues to evolve.
About the Ground Design: Cartesian Tapestries
In acknowledging African American textile traditions within the ground plane design, Jeyifous invokes their role in craft, artistic interpretation, and folklore; all important to creative storytelling and oral tradition. He’s fascinated with how quilts reflect patterns associated with meanings and the ways in which they visually present as abstracted cartographic imagery. The color blocks combine with icons to act as a key legend, identifying important references to the industrial and merchant history of this city. The ground mural is a brightly colored, yet quiet foundation linking the four figures to Alexandria's incontrovertible past as home to a major domestic slave market and a substantial free black community.
About the Icons
The installation includes eight icons that represent the different industries that were essential to the history of Alexandria's black community. The figures represent fishing, flour, tobacco, and railway. The ground mural represents brick and trowel, church window, compass, and ice tongs. Download the icon gu ide to read more about each one.
Public Art in Alexandria
To learn more about public art in Alexandria, you can review the City Council approved Public Art Implementation Plan & Policy, or learn more about other public art projects in Alexandria. Visit alexandriava.gov/PublicArt or follow @alexartsoffice on Instagram and Twitter. Add to the conversation with #artsALX.
Photo by Laura Hatcher for City of Alexandria