ORLANDO, Fla. – When the Urban Outfitters at the Mall at Millenia moved to another location, Filipino-American artist Jefrë knew just how to refashion the abandoned space—a pop-up art exhibit.
The former clothing store is dressed to the nines with pieces from the artist’s former “Points of Connection” gallery at Orlando Museum of Art as well as art from his new “Contour” series, inspired by the connections between land and human engagement.
The exhibit, set to close at the end of this year, has already seen around 19,000 mall-goers since it opened in early October, according to the artist.
For now, it’s open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“(Mall officials) saw the opportunity, the idea, of introducing art to the typical mall user ... the mall never really does pop-up events like this, you know,” Jefrë said. “It’s sort of an opportunity to come in and then provide a non-ticketed event to kind of enhance the (experience of the) mall visitors.”
Jefrë said it’s important for him to introduce art to people who may not typically go to museums or galleries otherwise.
“It’s this idea of kind of creating an inclusive, free exposure to people who may not have had the opportunity to see art before,” he continued.
The environment fits with his public artist persona and his focus on crafting pieces that reflect people.
Jefrë's life-size “Baks” sculptures do just that. They represent city dwellers, with blocks for faces, each named after different emotions that capture their feelings toward the city they live in.
“For me, it’s really about understanding the people and environment and not necessarily the architecture or the buildings or the infrastructure that make that city, even though it’s an important part,” Jefrë said. “But what I realized is that cities are really more than just buildings, they’re really about the emotions of each of the people and the cultures that are there.”
He specifically investigates Orlando, a land of lakes, in his “Contour” series. It puts the City Beautiful, with all its sinkholes, limestone and aquatic topography, on display.
Jefrë said he enjoys being able to expose his work to people who serendipitously stumble upon the pop-up exhibit with no expectations.
He said it’s evoked some gut reactions, especially in reference to the pieces involving his personal health journey, something he’s no stranger to as a heart attack survivor and frequent partner with AdventHealth, who sponsored this pop-up exhibit.
Peeking into his artistic medical cabinet inspires others to share their intimate health struggles and stories.
“To have the traffic of the mall and the visitors come through here and see like, you know, the joy of people laughing and being part of the exhibit, I think that’s really what’s beneficial for me,” Jefrë said. “I think it’s different.”