A brand new present presents over 15 years of JR's thought-provoking artwork
JR: Chronicles opens this summer at London's Saatchi Gallery and is a new exhibition spanning over 15 years of JR's art brand as activism.
After finding a camera on the Paris subway in 2001, the French artist garnered international recognition, an Oscar nomination and a place among Time's 100 Most Influential People. Due to the legal and safety risks associated with his public facilities around the world, his identity was loosely hidden by a hat and sunglasses during this time.
Above: The Secret of the Great Pyramid, 2019 © I. M. Pei, Louvre Museum. Above: 28 millimeters, Portrait d’une génération, Braquage, Ladj Ly vu par JR, 2004. All images © JR-art.net
The exhibition begins with the artist's early experiments with photography and wheat pastes in public settings – which are still a central element of his practice to this day – when he was growing up in Paris in the early 2000s. This includes one of his earliest projects, Expo 2 Rue, in which he documented graffiti artists and presented the images on the street.
The 2004 Expo 2 Rue was followed by Portrait of a Generation in collaboration with the artist and filmmaker Ladj Ly. The project included portraits of young people from Les Bosquets, a housing project in the Paris suburb of Montfermeil, which were again expanded on a large scale and pasted onto the street. After the Paris Riots of 2005, JR returned to create new portraits that caricatured stereotypes and depictions of locals that have been immortalized by politicians and the media.
Christoph, 2004. All pictures of 28 millimeters, portrait d’une génération
Destruction No. 2, Montfermeil, 2013
JR: Chronicles was organized and curated by the Brooklyn Museum, where the exhibition was previously held. The presentation in London will feature more recent work that has emerged since then, including two projects from 2019: The Secret of the Great Pyramid on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Louvre Pyramid and Tehachapi, where prisoners with maximum security in California were photographed and worked with.
The exhibition will include other projects celebrating overlooked members of society, such as Women Are Heroes and Wrinkles of the City. Also on view is Faces Places, the 2017 film directed by JR together with the late filmmaker Agnès Varda, which follows her road trip through France.
Action in the Fevela Morro da Proivdencia, Favela de Jour, Rio de Janeiro, 2008. Both pictures from 28 millimeters, Women Are HeroesEyes on Bricks, New Delhi, India, 2009
Regardless of whether the portraits of prisoners in the Tehachapi prison yard or his projects on the borders between Palestine and Israel or the US and Mexico were inserted, the scale of much of JR's work means that the whole message and impact is best seen from afar and the place itself cannot be seen from afar.
In his practice, however, there is an element of participation and exchange: For example, people often receive a copy of their portraits, as in his global photo project Inside Out, which has been running for ten years.
Migrants, Mayra, picnic across the border, Tecate, Mexico-USA, 2017
The execution of his works in public space also means that they can be changed, manipulated or interpreted by anyone. "That's what I love: The fact that it's on the street and really belongs to the people, and how it is interpreted depends on the context and frame of reference, where people grew up and what it means there." JR recently said in a talk on his new book How Old Am I. “Pasting it in one place is art and another is crime.
"I'm always very interested in what people think and how they interpret (my work)," he added. "I am interested in your own story because it is more interesting than mine. It helps me, almost like a (sociologist), to understand how people in the country think and in this way to really understand what the mentality is, how the state of mind is in all of the places I've traveled and not just staying on the surface. "
JR: Chronicles runs from June 4th to October 3rd at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Tickets are now available in advance. saatchigallery.com