JR is a French artist and photographer whose real name and identity are unknown. JR believes that art can be made on any surface and states that the street is the largest art gallery in the world. He began working as a street artist in the streets of Paris and now his artworks are spread all over the world including Cartagena, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Middle East, France, and Africa. He has a unique style of the medium as he uses wheat pasting and grand mono photographs which are pasted at the most unexpected places. He calls himself a photograffeur where ‘graffeur’ in French stands for a ‘graffiti artist’. He says his work “often challenges widely held preconceptions and the reductive images propagated by advertising and the media.” He has introduced an interesting take on street art as he infuses photography with graffiti art.
JR has taken the responsibility to speak for the subalterns, minorities, race issues, identity, freedom, and resistance. It is important to understand JR’s vision as he tries to surface the problems of people who are neglected in the world populace and demands a fair representation for these minorities and people. His artwork denies the luxury of ignorance to the privileged masses and forces them to see the real picture beyond their safe bubbles. His exhibition called Face 2 Face deals with an important humanitarian crisis that the world faces in question with Palestinian identity and freedom. He placed huge portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in the streets of many of Palestinian and Israeli cities. He went a step ahead and illegally bypassed the authorities and securities on both sides of the separation wall. In 2019, he did a project called ‘Tehachapi, The Yard’ for which he interacted and learned the stories of the prisoners admitted in the California Correctional Institution. He wrote, “The idea was to meet with men working on rehabilitation, and to also engage formerly incarcerated men, their family members, as well as the prison staff, and survivors of violent crimes.” In 2020, JR returned to California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi and produced another master artwork by developing large scale wall pastings inspired by Tehachapi Mountains by working with volunteers from the prison’s incarcerated population. He installed a wheat pasting mountain range on the courtyard’s inner wall for a view for the prisoners who can never reach those mountains. Through these projects, he stirred a sense of inclusion and community for the alienated population of the world who are far removed from the ‘normal’ in the world of prison cells. It was an attempt to humanize the otherwise dehumanized prison inmates.
JR takes art as not just a means of expression but as a responsibility on his shoulders to develop it into a powerful tool to bring change. He started an initiative called CAN ART CHANGE THE WORLD? INC. It is a non-profit organization, recognizing art as a powerful medium to bring cultural and social awareness and change around the world and specific communities. JR’s art projects are not only about talking about the problems in the world but also asking a set of questions on a grand scale. JR’s work does not just make statements but stirs our deep consciousness that needs awakening. His projects include Women are Heroes, The Wrinkles of the City, Faces Places, and InsideOut where each project takes up an important issue that needs our immediate attention. JR has been known for breaking the rules and always coming up with something out of the box and onto a wall. He has gained such high praises as he does not stop at art; he has flown into communities like a river and provided opportunities to people by recruiting them as models and collaborated with them. JR has made the world his gallery by painting voices of people on the walls and constantly striving towards a better and hopeful world one wall at a time.
Curated by Romina Bertetti.
Text by Mariyam Fatima.
Photo Source: Jr.Com