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Invisible Men are coming to Civic Center

Get ready to feast your eyes on some public placemaking in the neighborhood! The San Francisco Arts Commission has announced that British Trinidadian artist Zak Ove’s ambitious sculpture installation Invisible Men will go on display in Civic Center Plaza from late July to October 2018.

The installation consists of 40 similar human figures to be arranged in four rows of ten facing San Francisco City Hall. The figures are all six and a half feet tall and 300 pounds that stand upright with their “hands up” in a precise formation that aligns with the symmetry of the surrounding architecture. Each piece is sculpted to resemble a Kenyan statuette that Ove has had since childhood and which has served as a muse for him during his career, according to a 2017 interview.

“It is an honor for me to exhibit this work in such an important and historical environment that has been a setting for free speech, protest and celebration,” says Ové. “This installation speaks of the African diaspora and our journey into the future. The Invisible Men are at once powerful, peaceful and totemic.”

The title Invisible Men references American writer Ralph Ellison’s 1952 book Invisible Man. The piece’s original venue in London recalled the 1605 performance of Jacobean playwright Ben Jonson’s The Masque of Blackness.

Invisible Men was originally conceived for the grounds of the historic Somerset House in London, which shares a similar government context and architectural characteristics of San Francisco’s Civic Center.

“Civic Center is where San Franciscans often come together to express our values, and these public spaces play an increasingly critical role for the surrounding neighborhoods and for the City,” said Todd Rufo, director of Economic and Workforce Development.  “We hope ambitious, provocative art installations like Invisible Men will become an annual occurrence in the Commons.”

Fabricated from resin and graphite, the sculptures reference a traditional African figure given to the artist by his father, renowned filmmaker Horace Ové, when he was a young child. For Ové, the ways in which this original sculpture has taken on new layers of meaning through time and has been adapted in his work is a metaphor for the complexities of personal identity.

“The Arts Commission’s contribution makes our Civic Center Plaza a more welcoming environment for arts and culture,” said Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of SF Recreation and Park Department whose jurisdiction includes Civic Center Plaza.  “We are excited the Invisible Men installation is coming to the Plaza as it will further amplify its civic character.”

NEMA’s four apartment building towers and three landscaped terraces offer an amazing array of views overlooking San Francisco’s urban landscape and natural setting. Landmarks in the surrounding skyline include the iconic skyscrapers of the San Francisco Financial District, the dome of City Hall, Golden Gate Bridge, Russian Hill, Bernal Heights, Twin Peaks, and San Francisco Bay. Get social with us and follow our story on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Instagram.  Use #liveNEMA to share with our team.

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