Street Artist JR Has Created an Epic Artwork About America’s Gun Debate, Collaborating With TIME Magazine

The work, a video mural featuring interactive images of 245 Americans on all sides of the debate, is also going on view at Pace Gallery.

JR's TIME "Guns in America" cover issue (2018). © TIME.

TIME magazine has released a special multimedia report on gun violence in America—and it’s accompanied by an impressive work of art.

The magazine collaborated with French artist JR, who earlier this year was named to the TIME 100 list, for the story’s illustration: a sprawling, interactive collage of politicians, protesters, gun violence victims, doctors, hunters, soldiers, and other citizens entrenched in the national debate around guns. A printed version of the image also graces the cover of TIME’s newest issue (on stands tomorrow), extending well beyond the publication’s signature red border.

And that’s not all. Recreated in mural form, JR’s work will travel to a variety of museums and public locations around the country. Tomorrow, a version of it will go on view at Pace Gallery in New York, while another will be installed at the Houston Bowery Art Wall downtown. TIME has also put out a call on its website for citizens around the country to host a projection of the mural and stage a public discussion of the issue.

Over the course of five months, JR traveled to three cities—St. Louis, Washington, DC, and Dallas—where he painstakingly photographed and filmed 245 Americans on various sides of the issue. The final work features all the subjects stitched together around a table, as if in fierce debate with one another. It exists in multiple forms: as a photograph, as a so-called video mural (which looks kind of like a GIF), and as an interactive online image, which viewers can explore by clicking on a subject to hear their thoughts on guns in their own words.

The report coincides with the anniversary of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which was passed 50 years ago this week, and features six essays on what it means to “bridge the divide.”

A still from the behind-the-scenes video. © TIME.

“Artists see beyond walls, across divides, around corners,” TIME editor in chief Edward Felsenthal wrote in a statement to readers. “Through their eyes, we understand the world in new, clearer ways… How would an artist, one whose body of work explores the world’s most complex social issues, approach the topic of guns in America today? If he were JR, a native of Paris, it would be with fresh eyes (behind his trademark sunglasses) and an open mind.”

For JR, who spent most of his life in Paris before moving to the US eight years ago, the project was largely an introduction to this distinctly American issue. Appearing on “CBS This Morning” today with Felsenthal, the artist explained what he learned.

“In France, where I come from, we don’t have guns like that,” the artist explained on the program. “Seeing it on the news, seeing these mass shootings—it was like, ‘How did that happen?’ But I’m also really naïve about it. So I went and asked the people themselves, asked them to tell me their story, and I haven’t changed a word from it… I got to learn from people’s fear.”

A still from the behind-the-scenes video. © TIME.

See a behind-the-scenes look at how the mural was made here.


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