Adding to the stunning views of the Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan skyline, JR’s latest work, The Chronicles of New York City, was on view in Williamsburg’s Domino Park. The mural featured a collective portrait of more than one thousand New York City residents and joined a series of public murals created in collaboration with local community partners and in conjunction with the exhibition JR: Chronicles, on view at the Brooklyn Museum. The installation at Domino Park was conceived in collaboration with architectural firm LOT-EK, which designed Triangle STACK #2 to help bring JR’s mural into the city’s open space. This mural is presented by the Brooklyn Museum with special thanks to Two Trees Management. Additional thanks to Chargeurs Philanthrophies, Leach, and Robert Anderson, JAM Consultants.
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).
Commissioned by Time magazine for its cover on November 5, 2018, this video mural visualizes a spectrum of views on guns in the United States through collaged portraits of individuals, including gun collectors, hunters, law enforcement officials, shooting victims, emergency room teams that treat victims of mass shootings, and gun industry lobbyists. The undertaking involved three cities—Washington, D.C., Saint Louis, and Dallas—and 245 people. Participants were invited to share their individual views, describe their own experiences, and search for common ground; their accounts are accessible on the project's website.
The project was nominated for an Emmy Award in the Outstanding New Approaches: Current News category.
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.”
JR began his career as a graffiti artist when he was thirteen, under the alias Face 3, making his marks on buildings and rooftops, and in subways. After finding a camera in the Paris Métro in 2000, he began to document his graffiti and other artists in action on the street. He eventually pasted photocopies of these images onto exterior walls and added painted frames, creating Expo 2 Rue (Sidewalk Galleries). JR has said, “I own the largest gallery of the world—the walls of the city!” These works demonstrate his early dedication to picturing communities and working outside of traditional art institutions in order to engage both local and broader publics.
The archival materials displayed include some of the first prints, original Xeroxes, and documentation related to Expo 2 Rue.
In 2008 JR initiated Women Are Heroes after learning about the deaths of three young men in the favela of Morro da Providência in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the subsequent riots ignited by the involvement of the Brazilian military. After meeting with residents for a month, the artist collaborated with them to make photographs of the eyes and faces of local women, including some related to the murdered men. Together, they pasted the blown-up images on forty buildings along the hillside of the favela, with the giant faces and eyes staring down into Rio. “Because we arrived without sponsorship or political agenda, people always received us with open arms,” JR says. “They are happy to see another approach, in which they are actors.”
Between 2008 and 2010, JR also completed Women Are Heroes installations in Cambodia, India, Kenya, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Inside Out gives individuals and groups the opportunity to use their own portraits to highlight a statement or issue within their community. Using a website platform, people can submit photographs, and JR’s studio prints and sends back posters for the participants to paste. These actions are then documented and exhibited online. JR has also taken photo booths on the road in the form of a photo truck, where people can take a portrait and immediately receive a poster to paste onto a nearby surface.
Since 2011 more than 400,000 portraits have been pasted in 141 countries worldwide, highlighting both local and global issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement in Baltimore, the plight of Afghan refugees in Belgium, and the U.N.-related cholera outbreak in Haiti.
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–October 18, 2020
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.
In addition to works by JR presented at the Museum, a monumental public mural featuring The Chronicles of New York City was on view in Domino Park, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The project has been conceived in collaboration with LOT-EK, which designed Triangle STACK #2 to help bring JR's mural into the city's open space. JR’s murals are also on view at Kings Theatre in Flatbush and the Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance in Bedford-Stuyvesant, with more planned for the run of the exhibition.
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.