See the Inventive Installations of Street Art Superstar JR’s Crowd-Pleasing Brooklyn Museum Retrospective
"JR: Chronicles" marks the artist's first major North American show.
For close to two decades, the streets have been at the heart of JR’s practice, the place where the French artist finds his subjects, where he photographs them, and where he displays his work, wheatpasting enlarged images on buildings around the world, sometimes illegally. This week, he’s headed indoors for his first major North American show, a mid-career survey at the Brooklyn Museum.
Taking over the museum’s great hall, the exhibition, titled “JR: Chronicles,” begins with the street artist’s earliest works, taken as a teenager after he found a camera on the Paris Metro in 2000. (JR also has a show on the Lower East Side at Perrotin.)
Born in 1983, the pseudonymous artist made his first graffiti works at just 13. Once he picked up the camera, he began documenting his friends as they tagged buildings across the city, posting blown up versions of the resulting photos on exterior walls for a project he dubbed Expo 2 Rue (Sidewalk Galleries).
In the years since, JR has become known for his socially engaged work, starting with Portrait of a Generation, featuring young people who took to the streets of Paris during the 2005 riots over the deaths of two teenage immigrants hiding from the police.
Soon after, JR traveled to the Gaza Strip to photograph Israelis and Palestinians. He pasted large-format version of these images on either side of the border wall. Perhaps the largest illegal photography exhibition ever staged, the piece, titled Face 2 Face, aimed to illustrate the similarities between these two peoples, and asked participants to sign a letter calling for peace and a two-state solution.
More recently, JR has begun creating massive photomontage murals, made up of hundreds of individual portraits collaged together. That body of work includes the newly made The Chronicles of New York City, featuring over 1,000 people photographed and interviewed in in summer 2018 out of JR’s mobile photography truck. (It will be on hand at the museum Saturday, October 5, 5–9:30 p.m., allowing visitors to add their own wheatpasted portrait to the display, and to the artist’s ongoing Inside Out project.)
Many of the works on view made headlines upon their creation—the optical illusion that made I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid at the Louvre disappear, his gun debate video mural which was both shown at Pace and on the cover of TIME magazine, and the artist’s installation in Ellis Island’s abandoned hospitals and corresponding film with Robert De Niro, to name just a few. The Brooklyn Museum show is an opportunity to see it all together, and is bound to be a crowd-pleaser.
It’s tough to capture the energy of work that takes place on the street. The show features both examples of his black-and-white photos and color pictures of the images as they appeared in the streets, as well as a variety of inventive indoor mural installations within the museum.
See a selection of images of the exhibition and works from the show below.
“JR: Chronicles” is on view at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, October 4, 2019–May 3, 2020.
“JR: The Chronicles of New York City – Sketches” is on view at Perrotin, 130 Orchard Street, September 11–October 26, 2019.
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