NEW ORLEANS (press release) – For nearly 70 years, sculptor Enrique Alférez helped shape the visual landscape of New Orleans. His figurative sculptures, monuments, fountains and architectural friezes, bas-reliefs and carvings grace dozens of spaces and structures from City Park to the Central Business District, and from Algiers Point to Lakefront Airport.It’s difficult to drive even a few miles around the Crescent City without encountering Alférez’s striking creations.
For the first time, the life and work of this preeminent artist has been celebrated in book form— Katie Bowler Young’s “Enrique Alférez: Sculptor,” now available from The Historic New Orleans Collection. Featuring 120 images of Alférez’s art in New Orleans and beyond, the book is the latest entry in THNOC’s well-received Louisiana Artists Biography Series, and the first title to center on sculpture and public art.
“Through his art, this sculptor of Mexican origins helped shape the look of one of the most visually interesting cities in the United States,” Young says. Although Young met her subject just once, she takes the reader inside Alférez’s public and private worlds to reveal “the difficult journey he traveled to obtain an education and pursue an art he loved,” she added.
“Enrique Alférez: Sculptor” spans nearly the entire 20th century in tracking the artist’s life. Born in a rural village in Zacatecas, Mexico, in the early years of the century, Alférez served with Pancho Villa’s rebel forces in the Mexican Revolution, then worked in El Paso, Texas. After studying in Chicago at Lorado Taft’s Midway Studios and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he stopped in New Orleans in 1929 en route to Mexico—and found his adopted hometown. The works he created in New Orleans during the ensuing decades made him the city’s most celebrated public artist.
Throughout his career, Alférez embraced classical sculpture while also incorporating the abstract trends popular during the art deco period. He worked in a range of media (stone, wood, plaster) to create sculpture, furniture, jewelry, even leather bags. As his subject matter, he championed women and laborers. Many of his figures represent aspects of his indigenous Nahua heritage. His “Molly Marine” sculpture was the first monument to women in the US military. Replicas of the New Orleans original stand at Marine Corps installations in South Carolina and Virginia.
Available at independent booksellers and major online retailers, “Enrique Alférez: Sculptor” retails for $49.95 and is made possible with generous support from The Helis Foundation and members of The Historic New Orleans Collection’s 2019 Bienville Circle and Laussat Society. Additional information about the book is available at www.hnoc.org/alferez.