The Power of Paper and Glue March 02 2014, 0 Comments
With a camera, a dedicated wheat pasting crew and help of whole villages and favelas, JR the semi-anonymous French street artist is able to show the world its true face.
Represented by Steve Lazarides the once agent of famed street artist Banksy, JR started out exploring graffiti as a 15 year old with friends. After a finding a camera on the subway he began photographing the process of painting graffiti around the city of Paris.
Intuitively he began to paste the images on buildings and pavements framing the pictures with paint so they wouldn't be confused with advertising.
“The city’s the best gallery I could imagine. I would never have to make a book and then present it to a gallery and let them decide if my work was nice enough to show it to people. I would control it directly with the public in the streets.”
Little did he know that his sidewalk galleries were the start of something much bigger.
His first acclaimed project came in 2006, titled Portrait of a Generation, featuring portraits of the suburban ‘thugs’ that he posted in huge formats, in the bourgeois districts of Paris. This illegal project became ‘official’ when the Paris City Hall wrapped its building with JR's photos.
He has since travelled to distant, often dangerous places, such as the slums of Kenya and the favelas of Brazil, He infiltrates communities, befriending inhabitants and recruiting them as models and collaborators.
Getting in his subjects’ faces with a 28mm wide-angle lens, results in portraits that are unguarded, funny, soulful, real, that captures the spirits of individuals who normally go unseen.
The blown-up images pasted on urban surfaces - the sides of buildings, bridges, trains, buses, on rooftops confront and engage audiences where they least expect it.
Standout projects include:
A project depicting women dealing with the effects of war, poverty, violence, and oppression from Rio de Janeiro, Phnom Penh, Delhi and several African cities.
Huge portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities. The portraits were posted on both sides of the Security fence/Separation wall.
An international participatory art project that allows people worldwide to get their picture and paste it to support an idea that they are passionate about. Jump on the link to learn more.
Choosing cities that have experienced great change such as Cartagena in Spain, Shanghai or Los Angeles, Wrinkles of the City aims to show the history and memory of a country through its inhabitants' wrinkles.
I didn't get the chance to catch the exhibition in London back in October, but I highly recommend if you have the time to check out JR’s TED talk that he did a few years back.