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Widewalls’ artist of the week – JR

  • French street art
  • French street art
  • French street art
  • French street art
December 26, 2013

The French urban artist JR has been around for several years and he never seizes to create unbelievable street art pieces. The ongoing Inside Out Project is only one of the great achievements of Monsieur JR. Galerie Perrotin showcased several of his works at the Art Basel with JR as one of their main artists. His photography’s of his street art achieve several thousand Euros at auctions and if all this isn’t enough for you we say Widewalls’ artist of the week is JR.

JR – 21st Century Cartier-Bresson

A photographer and an acclaimed French street artist, JR, is one of the rare few street artists who have the chance of exhibiting in the moat significant contemporary art galleries and museums in the world, by creating inspirational pieces in urban environments globally. Disguising his real identity, he creates huge black and white photographic posters and places them in public areas mimicking the graffiti artists’ spatial takeover. His artistic acts are heavily socially engaged, handling of issues of identity, responsibility, freedom and boundaries. Introduced by a prominent French art critic, Fabrice Bousteau, as the one already called the Cartier-Bresson of the 21st century, the 30-year-old JR has already earned a prominent spot in the world of contemporary art.

French artist
Portrait of JR

JR – Early days

As a teen, JR started writing graffiti on the streets of Paris wishing to leave his mark in the world. Adventuresome and smart, he often chose tricky spots for his artwork, rooftops or subway. The photographic documentation of his tags started accidentally, when he found a camera on an underground train. Soon after, he began placing photocopies of these pics on public walls.

French street art
JR in Bangladesh

JR – Graffiti

His quest to find kindred graffiti spirit took him on a road through Europe, where the idea of using contours of the urban areas first appeared. He was applying postered photos of the people he met along the way in the streets and basements, and then, on rooftops of Paris. His inventive and visually effective way of producing street art lifted his project Portraits of a Generation from an illegal to an official level when the City of Paris embraced and pasted his photos on various buildings. Executed in the course of two years, this project showcased portraits of young people from the housing projects of the French capital.

JR – Changing mediums

Shifting from the, so-to-say, traditional graffiti technique, JR began using photography as a primary source for his prints, but his means of expression include video, canvas prints, urban areas, books and social networks. Besides the noted Portraits of a Generation that he worked on from 2004 to 2006, JR has conducted a number of projects over the years.

JR – Face 2 Face

A major endeavor followed, a Face2Face project that he worked on together with Marco in 2007. It was the biggest exhibition in the open known to that point, in one of the most tumultuous areas of the planet. JR posted a number of large portrait photographs of Israelis and Palestinians in eight individual Israeli and Palestinian cities and on both sides of the separating barrier. By surpassing the seeming impossibility of this action, the brave artist has managed to convey to the both sides that they are much closer to each other than they might think, and that it is certainly possible to overcome their mutual differences and find mutual interests. This fight against prejudice brought JR and Marco numerous awards.

JR street art
Face 2 Face
JR art
Face 2 Face in Gaza

Women are Heroes & Wrinkles of the City

The year 2008 brought projects titled Women are Heroes and Wrinkles of the City. Women are Heroes took JR on a journey through some of the isolated areas, where he found and portrayed women who are often victims of conflict and violence and still remain kind and generous, and do not let their spirit break down. He has managed to capture their dignity that never fades regardless of the difficulty of their positions. This project was later transferred into a film, containing scenes with installations and interviews with the portrayed women. The said documentary feature was part of the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. The town of Cartagena in Spain served as the inspiration for the project The Wrinkles of the City. Taking photos of its oldest residents, the artist attempted to paint the historical picture of the city, using the living faces as the atlas he read from. Every wrinkle, every mark on the faces of the elderly signified a point in history, a memory important for themselves and for their city. The project consequently grew, as JR took the action to Shanghai, Los Angeles and Havana.

JR photography
Women are Heroes
JR photography
Women are Heroes
JR photography
Women are Heroes
JR Photography
Wrinkles of the City

JR’s Inside Out Project

The year 2011 produced a new activity, The Inside Out Project, a large scale action accomplished through the participation of audience. People are the key part of this action, and they participate by uploading their photos onto a digital platform, which are then sent to the project coordinators that make posters and exhibit them. JR’s desire to turn the world inside out led to the renowned prize, as he invited everybody to help him continue doing exactly that. Today, there are over 150,000 people from over 108 countries worldwide that have taken part in this project. The development of this largest participatory art project in the world was, once again, presented on film. JR shot a documentary titled Inside Out: The People’s Art Project that was promoted at the Tribeca Film Festival 2013.

JR Photography
Inside Out Project
JR Photography
Inside Out Project

JR – Urban activist

JR refers to himself as an urban activist, which is entirely cohesive with his actions in Paris ghetto, in the Middle East or in the Brazilian favelas. He involves the inhabitants of the action area through the use of their homes’ outside walls and other ways in which they can participate in the creative process. Through this personal and immediate approach, JR accomplishes the sense of unity and erases the boundaries between the art and the observer.

French art
JR

JR in the World’s metropolises

His photographs have traveled the world, being exhibited in major art centers such as New York, Berlin, Amsterdam, besides the cities where he originally created the works. His art was exhibited in over 30 exhibitions in some of the most important galleries and museums of the world. Among the spaces he displayed his work at are Tate Modern in London, Biennale in Venice and Centre Pompidou in Paris. In 2011 JR was awarded the TED Prize, an acknowledgement to the extraordinary individuals who strive towards the world changing for the better.

Pictures retrieved from: JR