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In 2010, during a radio program in San Diego, California, artist Shepard Fairey stated: "JR is the most ambitious street artist working." Le Mondehas described his work as "revealing humanity."With over a million Instagram followers, he's one of the most popular artists on social media."
JR considers himself as "neither a street artist nor a photographer". To carry out his projects, he uses photography but also video, prints on paper or tarpaulins, urban spaces, books and especially social links. JR noted "I would like to bring art to improbable places, create projects so huge with the community that they are forced to ask themselves questions. I want to try to create images of hot spots such as the Middle East or Brazil that offer different points of view from the ones we see in the worldwide media which are often caricatures."
The Portraits of a Generation project constitutes the first stage of the 28 mm project. After the first unauthorized exhibit on the walls of the Cité des Bosquets housing project, JR returned and set himself up of this housing project and the neighbouring one, the Cité de la Forestière, both in the epicenter of the 2005 riots in the French suburbs. The first portraits were rapidly exhibited on the walls of the last popular neighbourhoods of the capital, in the east of Paris. These photos provoked the passerby in as much as they questioned the social and media representation of a whole generation that for some is only to be seen relegated to the outskirts of the capital.
The Face2Face project tried to show that beyond what separates them, Israelis and Palestinians are enough alike to be able to understand one another. Israeli and Palestinian men and women who have the same jobs accepted to laugh or cry, to scream or pull faces in front of JR's lens. The portraits created were pasted up face to face, in monumental format on either side of the Separation Wall and in several surrounding towns. JR photographed and Marco wrote, together succeeding in creating the largest unauthorized 20 urban art exhibit in the world (la plus grande exposition d'art urbain au monde). The project's goal was to show through images that art and laughter combined can break down prejudice.
The film Faces, directed by Gerard Maximin, about this artistic undertaking carried out in the Middle East by JR and Marco has won numerous prizes.
For this project, JR slipped into fantasmatic places, the ones seen on TV when there is violence, the ones an observer might go close to but never enter and that will not be found on any tourist guidebook tour.Women are Heroes introduces women who sometimes look death in the face, who go from laughter to tears, who are generous, have nothing and yet share, who have had a painful past and long to build a happy future. In seeking what is common in their gaze, JR tried to get closer to what is universal: the human being. This project allowed him to keep the promise he made to these women: faire voyager leur histoire (to make their story travel).Women are Heroes has traveled to locations including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya, Brazil, India, and Cambodia. In 2014, JR made one final project for Women Are Heroes with the dockers of Le Havre, France. Imaging a woman's eyes from the previous trip in Kenya, JR and his team completed the largest pasting to date on shipping containers that were then stacked on a barge traveling the world to Malaysia. In doing so, he finally took the women's stories around the globe.
The Los Surcos de la Ciudad project (The Wrinkles of the City) is based on the encounter between JR, the city of Cartagena, Spain, and its oldest inhabitants who are taken as the memory incarnate of the city, marked by the scars of its history, economic expansion and socio-cultural mutations. While meeting and photographing the elderly, JR imaged their wrinkles, the furrows of their brows, as the marks of time, the traces of their lives that are linked with the history of the city.
For JR, these older people are the living memory of a city changing faster than they themselves age. For him, every one of their wrinkles and each day that goes by are inscribed in the buildings and in the streets of old Cartagena that provided JR with a heterogeneous architecture.
As of 2015, The Wrinkles of the City project has reached Shanghai, China, Los Angeles, California, Havana, Cuba, Berlin, Germany and Istanbul, Turkey.
The Inside Out Project is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work in the form of black and white photographic portraits. The images are uploaded digitally and made into posters and sent back to the project's co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities. Over 150,000 people from more than 108 countries have participated.
In 2013, the project created a massive exhibit in Times Square in Manhattan that challenged advertising with art created from thousands of portraits of locals and tourists. The effort to engage New Yorkers across the five boroughs after Hurricane Sandy, was completed using one of the Inside Out Project Photobooth trucks. This method created by JR produced a more direct connection of his work to the streets through an immediate interaction with the community and the people. The Photobooth trucks have since traveled around the world for a variety of different causes, including a nationwide tour that brought attention to immigration reform in America, and a 10-stop trip to major monuments in France ending with a large installation in the Pantheon in Paris.
Unframed is an ongoing project that began in 2010, realized using images by famous or anonymous photographers, and archival images that JR interpreted and took out of their context depending on the place, neighborhood, or city he worked in. In works such as those made in May 2013 in Marseille, France, JR dug into the identity of the neighborhood of la Belle de Mai, and invited its inhabitants to think about the memory of their streets by looking into their personal photo albums. The photographs, old or new, cropped or enlarged, create monumental artworks on the facades of neighborhoods and transform personal and multiple footprints of what is part of the city's history and collective memory. JR has exhibited Unframed works in Cincinnati, Marseille, Atlanta, Washington DC, Baden Baden, Grottaglie, Vevey, and São Paulo.
In 2014, JR continued his Unframed project on Ellis Island, using photos from when the island operated as the entryway for millions of immigrants to America. These archival images were installed into the facades and walls of the abandoned hospital on the grounds that once housed the sick and dying.
In 2014, JR collaborated with the New York City Balletfor their second annual Art Series program. JR exhibited artworks in the Lincoln Center David H. Koch theatre in January and February, including a large installation of an interactive piece on the floor of the promenade. This work followed his model of engaging with his fans and the public across social divides, connecting ballet patrons to first time attendees with the image of the life-size ballerinas on the ground.
The Art Series led to further collaborations between the artist and the New York City Ballet, as months later he explored a new artistic medium of choreography. JR worked with the company's ballet master in chief Peter Martins to create a piece titled Les Bosquets based on his beginnings during the 2005 riots in the Parisian suburbs. For this project, the dancers became his paper and his works were transformed to the stage.
In September 2017, JR erected a scaffolding with a large photograph of a little boy, on the Mexican side of the U.S.–Mexico border, giving the impression of the toddler curiously peering over the fence, when seen from the U.S. side. The boy, named Kikito, lives with his family close to the border in Tecate, where the piece of art was erected. On the last day of the installation, a border crossing picnic was arranged, with hundreds of participants. Food was passed through the fence, and was eaten off a surface with a photograph, picuring the eyes of a young undocumented U.S. immigrant (sometimes known as "Dreamers"). The left eye was on a table on the Mexico side; the right eye was on a tarp on the U.S. side, together creating the impression of a single long dining table when viewed from above. (Aerial photograph.) JR expected the picnic to be shut down, but it was tolerated, with one of the U.S. border agents sharing a cup of tea with the artist. "
I saw this artist on 60 Minutes, this evening.
His work speaks volumes, about creativity, art, and about humanity.
I'm mentioning JR, because of the artistical impression he made on me, via the story, that 60 Minutes did on he, and his work.