Enrique Alférez: Symbols of Communication

By New Orleans Museum of Art

Symbols of Communication is a large-scale bas-relief mural by Enrique Alférez, a Mexican artist who lived and worked in New Orleans. Originally created for the New Orleans Times-Picayune Building in 1967, NOMA acquired the mural in 2020. The mural is now the centerpiece of the museum's newly opened Lapis Center for the Arts.

Symbols of Communication (Instalaltion view 02) by Enrique AlférezNew Orleans Museum of Art

Symbols of Communication celebrates the diversity of human culture, and showcases our universal desire to share our stories and connect with one another through language.

Alférez originally created Symbols of Communication for the main entrance of the New Orleans Times-Picayune Building in 1967, to adorn both sides of the building’s three-story lobby.

Symbols of Communication (Instalaltion view 01) (1967) by Enrique AlférezNew Orleans Museum of Art

To create this imposing three-story bas-relief sculpture, Alférez stamped a series of plaster panels with hand-carved wooden molds containing characters and symbols meant to represent all human languages.

Symbols of Communication (Instalaltion view 03 by Enrique AlférezNew Orleans Museum of Art

The mural celebrates the power of language to reach across cultures and time by weaving together a vast array of alphabets.

Symbols of Communication (Panels) (1967) by Enrique AlférezNew Orleans Museum of Art

The panels include languages from across the world, including Greek and Roman alphabets...

Symbols of Communication (Panels) by Enrique AlférezNew Orleans Museum of Art

...Arabic, Chinese and Japanese characters...

Symbols of Communication (Panels) by Enrique AlférezNew Orleans Museum of Art

...Mayan glyphs and hieroglyphics from ancient Egypt...

Symbols of Communication (Panels) by Enrique AlférezNew Orleans Museum of Art

...numerical symbols, and the dots and dashes of Morse code and Braille, among many other sources.

Enrique Alferez (April 1953) by Jules L. CahnNew Orleans Museum of Art

Alférez was born in Mexico in 1901, and first visited New Orleans in 1929. He created over twenty major public works—sculptures and wall reliefs in metal, plaster and wood—throughout the city.

[Entrance to Charity Hospital] (1933)New Orleans Museum of Art

His work can still be found all across New Orleans. He created a site-specific installation for the entrance to New Orleans's Charity Hospital...

[Exterior, Shushan Airport, entrance to terminal] (1933) by F. A. McDaniels, Inc.New Orleans Museum of Art

...a series of sculptures for the facade of this airport, and many large scale sculptures that can now be seen at the New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park.

Enrique Alferez (1953) by Jules L. CahnNew Orleans Museum of Art

Alférez came of age during the political fervor of the Mexican Revolution, and grew up in a world in which art was deeply intertwined with politics.

Diego Rivera (1941-03) by Peter StackpoleLIFE Photo Collection

In the early 1920s, he was exposed to the work of Mexican artists like Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

The Rural Schoolteacher (1932) by Diego RiveraMuseo Dolores Olmedo

These artists made art a centerpiece of the Mexican Revolution, treating it as a tool for advancing their fight for education and liberation.

Rectory, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Ciudad de Mexico (2009-04-14) by Tono LabraGetty Images

Like Alférez, many of these artists focused on creating large-scale public artworks and murals meant to exist in public spaces.

Drawing of a Man (1940) by Enrique AlferezNew Orleans Museum of Art

Alférez's art reflected his own political convictions and belief in the power of everyday people make big change.

Symbols of Communication (Panels) (1967) by Enrique AlférezNew Orleans Museum of Art

Symbols of Communication highlights the power and importance of communication, as well as the role that art has to play in helping us reach across cultures to connect with others.

Symbols of Communication (Instalaltion view 02) by Enrique AlférezNew Orleans Museum of Art

Symbols of Communication is now the centerpiece of the museum's new Lapis Center for the Arts, a mixed-use performance, lecture and event space where it will be animated by music, dance and the sharing of new ideas for years to come.

Credits: Story

Enrique Alférez, "Symbols of Communication," 1967, New Orleans Museum of Art: Gift of Joseph Jaeger, Barry Kern, Michael White, and Arnold Kirschman, 2020.7.1-.118. Photography by Sesthasak Boonchai. © Estate of Enrique Alférez

Jules L. Cahn, "Enrique Alférez," April 1953, Jules Cahn Collection at the Historic New Orleans
Collection, 1996.123.3.6

Unidentified photographer, "[Entrance to Charity Hospital]," 1933, Jules Cahn Collection at the Historic New Orleans Collection, 1991.114.37

F. A. McDaniels, Inc., "[Exterior, Shushan Airport, entrance to terminal]," 1933, [Exterior, Shushan Airport, entrance to terminal], 1991.114.21

Jules L. Cahn, "Enrique Alférez," 1953, Jules Cahn Collection at the Historic New Orleans
Collection, 1996.123.3.1

Diego Rivera, "The Rural School Teacher", 1932, Museo Dolores Olmedo

David Alfaro Siqueiros mural, Rectory, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Ciudad de Mexico

Enrique Alférez, "Drawing of a Man," 1940, The Historic New Orleans Collection, Gift of Mr. Albert Louis Lieutaud, 1968.12.1

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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