On October 8, 2017, for the last day of the Kikito installation at the U.S.-Mexico border, JR organized a gigantic picnic on both sides of the wall. Kikito, his family, and dozens of guests came from the United States and Mexico to share a meal. People at both sides of the border gathered around the eyes of Mayra, a “Dreamer,” eating the same food, sharing the same water, and enjoying the same live music (with half the band’s musicians playing on either side).
In 2013 JR learned that the housing towers in Les Bosquets were going to be demolished, so he revisited the Portrait of a Generation project. Using images from the original series, he and a team pasted portraits in the building before it was destroyed. He recalled, “We couldn’t get authorization to paste inside. So we got plans from the former inhabitants, and we entered at night, twenty-five of us, and spread out over all the different floors. We pasted eyes in someone’s kitchen, a nose in someone else’s bathroom, and a mouth in a living room. . . . When we came down, the police arrested us, but they couldn’t understand why we had just spent hours in this building that was about to be destroyed. The pastings were so big that they couldn’t see what they were. The next day, when workers started the demolition, the portraits were revealed, little by little, while the cranes were ‘eating’ the building. Only the people who were in the neighborhood that day witnessed the gigantic spectacle unfold.”
The archival materials displayed here include some of the first prints, original Xeroxes, and documentation related to JR’s earliest photographic project, Expo 2 Rue.
JR has created limited-edition lithographs related to his projects that allow him not only to share his ephemeral installations with wider audiences around the globe but also to raise money for future work and continued engagement with communities. This group of lithographs documents Women Are Heroes projects in Brazil, India, Kenya, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, as well as the final exhibition of the series in France. There, in 2014, JR pasted images from the project on a container ship that traveled from Le Havre to Malaysia as part of his promise to the participants that he would make sure their stories traveled.
As the first photograph in what would become JR’s Portrait of a Generation, this image launched his career. The series was initiated when Ladj Ly, a filmmaker and resident of Cité des Bosquets (called “Les Bosquets”), a public housing complex in the Parisian suburb of Montfermeil, invited JR to collaborate on a project in the neighborhood.
JR said of the image: “I took this picture when I was eighteen. It was the first time I went to Les Bosquets. If you look carefully in the back, you can see small posters from Expo 2 Rue—and I wrote ‘Expo D Boske.’ The kids asked me if I could take a picture of them. This photo of Ladj Ly filming me was the first one on the roll of film, and I felt something special had happened. This image is very emblematic of my work and of the message of this project with Ladj.”
This photograph was also the first large-scale image that JR and his friends wheat pasted in the neighborhood prior to the riots there in 2005. It appeared as the backdrop in photographs accompanying newspaper articles and television footage about the uprising, thereby becoming JR’s first published work.
October 4, 2019–May 3, 2020
Great Hall, 1st Floor
Over the past two decades, JR has expanded the meaning of public art through his ambitious projects that give visibility and agency to a broad spectrum of people around the world. Showcasing murals, photographs, videos, films, dioramas, and archival materials, JR: Chronicles is the first major exhibition in North America of works by the French-born artist. Working at the intersections of photography, social engagement, and street art, JR collaborates with communities by taking individual portraits, reproducing them at a monumental scale, and wheat pasting them—sometimes illegally—in nearby public spaces.
This soaring multimedia installation traces JR’s career from his early documentation of graffiti artists as a teenager in Paris to his large-scale architectural interventions in cities worldwide to his more recent digitally collaged murals that create collective portraits of diverse publics. The centerpiece of the exhibition is The Chronicles of New York City, a new epic mural of more than one thousand New Yorkers that is accompanied by audio recordings of each person’s story. All of the projects on view honor the voices of everyday people and demonstrate JR’s ongoing commitment to community, collaboration, and civic discourse.
JR: Chronicles is curated by Sharon Matt Atkins, Director of Exhibitions and Strategic Initiatives, and Drew Sawyer, Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian Curator, Photography, Brooklyn Museum.
Leadership support for this exhibition is provided by Clara Wu Tsai.
Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Ford Foundation.
Generous support is provided by the Brooklyn Museum’s Contemporary Art Committee, the FUNd, Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia, and Perrotin. Additional support is provided by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Emily Glasser and William Susman, Carol and Arthur Goldberg, the Hayden Family Foundation, the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc., Pace Gallery, and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.
This exhibition is part of Brooklyn Falls for France, a cultural season organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and FACE Foundation in partnership with Brooklyn venues.