Episode #10 of the course “Street artists you should know”
The French photographer and street artist known as “JR” has yet to confirm his identity publically. Born in 1983, he began to make his mark around Paris as a graffiti artist, but he really started drawing attention to himself when he began to post photographs in public spaces. His website says that his movement into photography began when he found a camera on the Paris subway and photographed first the city’s existing street art and then the “vertical spaces” of the city’s rooftops and underground areas.
Creating great controversy in 2007, JR’s Face to Face exhibit is an example of his creative intent to inject politics into the social consciousness. For Face to Face, JR astounded critics when he illegally posted huge portrait images of Israelis and Palestinians on both sides of the separation wall and security fence. He wants to create “pervasive art” that wraps itself around a building, without being invited, as an organic and collective form of creativity. He believes that everyone could be an artist—even if temporarily—or the subject of a piece of art. He encourages people to participate in street art.
As winner of the Ted Prize in 2011, JR founded the Inside Out project, which aimed to change advertising efforts and allowed people to have their pictures taken and posted to express their support for an idea or to relate their personal experience. Since then he has spent a great deal of time in the US, especially New York City, and has been inspired to paint a series of portraits of Lakota Native Americans. JR’s work is about raising questions and allowing the art viewer to contemplate and create answers for him or herself.
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