JR: Chronicles

showing the artist’s best

JR is an artist until he finds a real job – says his Instagram Bio. And in the meantime, he has created an impressive body of work ranging from his early documentation of the Paris’ graffiti scene, large-scale architectural interventions in cities worldwide to recent digitally installed murals. “JR: Chronicles”, shown at Saachi Gallery in London, honors the artist in the best way presenting the largest JR solo show to date.

Letting the Louvre disappear, giving forgotten women a stage, or bonding the New York Time Square with photos of the city’s citizens for his Inside Out Project – JR’s work goes way further than what is considered art. His work is impactful and always has a critical side to it, highlighting injustices worldwide. No wonder, JR was named as one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2018 and received a TED Prize for “Inside Out”.

JR – the initials stand for Juste Ridicule – started portraying the street art and graffiti scene of Paris after he found a camera on the Metro in 2001 and pasted his photographs on building facades throughout the urban centers. Over two decades later, Saatchi Gallery is now presenting the largest JR exhibition to date, showing his classics as well as his previous projects such as The Secret of the Great Pyramid, JR’s large scale piece in the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Louvre Pyramid, and Tehachapi which follows his experiences with inmates of a high-security prison in California.

“JR: Chronicles” happens at a key moment in time, when social engagement and the power of communities have taken centre stage worldwide. In times in which social inequalities are being focused on, the artist’s work has never been more relevant. Therefore, the exhibition focuses on JR’s commitment to community, collaboration and civic engagement. The first section shows his early works including Expo 2 Rue, where he posted photos of his community of graffiti artists in action and used the streets as an open gallery.

The show continues with his travels to Palestine and Israel, where he initiated Face 2 Face. He featured giant portrait diptychs of Israelis and Palestinians pasted on either side of the separation wall. The photos he used were pairs of people – one Israeli and one Palestinian – who lived on opposite sides of the wall but had the same occupation. At the time, Face 2 Face was considered the largest illegal photography exhibition ever in Israel.

Further projects featured at Saachi Gallery are Women Are Heroes, which honours women and their contribution to public life, Inside Out, the biggest community project worldwide, as well as The Gun Chronicles: A Story of America, a video mural stressing the complex approach American’s have on guns. The list of JR’s impactful projects goes on. With his body of work, he has managed to question power structures and institutions and has done nothing less but has revolutionized the medium of photography in the twenty-first century.

all images courtesy of the artist JR.

article by Nora Partl for Forward Festival