The great street artist JR exhibits at the Saatchi Gallery in London
Under the title “JR:Chronicles” is the largest individual exhibition carried out to date by the acclaimed artist, which has been curated by Sharon Matt Atkins and Drew Sawyer from the Brooklyn Museum. In fact, it includes some his most iconic installations of the last 15 years.
“JR: Chronicles is the greatest exhibition to date by the French artist.”
JR was awarded the TED prize, has been nominated for the Oscars and is one of the top 100 most influential people according to Time magazine in 2018. As if this weren’t enough, he has received much praise from critics for his global art projects, that bring different groups of participants together and create a dialogue about controversial social matters such as women’s rights, immigration or weapon control, amongst many others.
JR is unique and through his art, he manages to make communities from all over the world, that tend to be ignored, heard. Through his eyes and his monumental photographic installations, deliberately placed in public spaces close or within the communities with which JR is associated, he manages to give them the visibility they deserve.
“This exhibition is a journey via the intimate narration of the one of the most influential contemporary artists of our time.”
The first part of the exhibition focuses on JR’s artistic evolution, centered on his commitment to the community, collaboration, and civil discourse. This is why his first photographic projects are presented, including “Expo 2 Rue” (2001-2004), where he documented and stuck photocopies of his graffiti artist community in action, using the streets as an open gallery or “Portrait of a Generation” (2004-2006), where he presented portraits of young people from Les Bosquets, a housing project in the Parisienne suburb of Montfermeil that became the epicenter of the riots in the whole country in 2005. Through this project, JR and his collaborators drew attention to their distorted representation in the media, thus challenging the assumptions and prejudice the public had of them.
“Through his art, JR shows his commitment to the community, to collaboration and to civil discourse.”
Throughout the exhibition, we can accompany him on his travels to Israel and Palestine, Brazil, Cuba and Mexico among other countries. And we will have the chance to see the content of his most symbolic projects such as “Wrinkles of the City” or “Women Are Heroes”.
As the exhibition progresses, we can see and get to know JR’s greatest projects better, greatest both in scale and importance. Projects where he addresses issues as current as the legal possession of weapons in the United States through “The Gun Chronicles: A Story of America” (2018) consisting of a video mural that visualizes the complex spectrum of the different points of view on the possession of weapons in the United States, including those of arm collectors, hunters, law enforcement officers, gun victims, A&E teams that treat mass shooting victims and lobbyists of the arms industry; “Face 2 Face” (2007), which was a project based on diptychs of giant portraits of Israelis and Palestinians next to both sides of the wall and in several surrounding cities. The portraits were of pairs of people – one Israeli and one Palestinian – that lived on opposite sides of the wall but that had the same job: teachers, doctors, athletes, artists, and religious leaders. At that time, it was considered the largest illegal photography exhibition ever carried out in Israel, tackling more than eight cities, including Bethlehem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Jerusalem; “Women Are Heroes” (2008-2009), that honours the contribution of women to public life by installing large scale images of their eyes and faces in their own communities; or “Wrinkles of the City” (2008-2015), a multi-city project that celebrates the oldest members of society and the stories they can tell, installed in cities such as Havana and Los Angeles; or the marvellous film “Faces Places”(2017), co-directed by the French film-maker Agnès Varda, that follows both artists as they travel through rural France creating portraits to highlight the solidarity of the workers.
The exhibition peaks with some of his latest works, including his large-scale architectural interventions in cities all over the world like “The Secret of the Great Pyramid” (2019), the collaborative large-scale piece created by JR on occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Louvre Pyramid; “Inside Out” (2011- to date), a participative global project that allows people to take and share their own portraits; or “Tehachapi” (2019) that shares his experience with prisoners from a maximum security prison in California or his most recent murals carried out with digital collages that create collective portraits of different communities.
Through his powerful story-telling skills, his collaboration and his commitment to the community and his will to question the structure of power and the institutions, JR has reinvented the medium of photography in the 21st century. Through photography, films and documentation of the artists’ installations, this important exhibition shows how and why JR’s art has managed to capture the imagination of audiences all over the world and expanded the meaning of public art through participative projects that make a wide spectrum of people visible.
(*) “JR: Chronicles” is organised by the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition is open now at Saatchi Gallery, London until 3 October 2021. Tickets on sale at www.saatchigallery.com/jrtickets. Major support provided by Art Explora.’