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File: JR

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Uploaded:
26.07.11
Modified:
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JR JR is the name of a photographer and artist whose identity is unconfirmed. He has described himself as a "photograffeur", he flyposts large black-and-white photographic images in public locations in a manner which is similar to the appropriation of the built environment by the graffiti artist. He states that the street is "the largest art gallery in the world." He started out on the streets of Paris. JR's work "often challenges widely held preconceptions and the reductive images propagated by advertising and the media."

JR's work combines art and action and deals with commitment, freedom, identity and limits. He has been introduced by Fabrice Bousteau as: "the one we already call the Cartier-Bresson of the 21st century".

On October 20, 2010, JR won the TED prize for 2011. "The TED Prize is awarded annually to an exceptional individual who receives $100,000 and, much more important, 'One Wish to Change the World.' Designed to leverage the TED community's exceptional array of talent and resources, the Prize leads to collaborative initiatives with far-reaching impact."

After finding a camera in the Paris Metro, JR travelled throughout Europe to meet the people whose mode of artistic expression involved the use of outdoor walls. Then, he began wondering about the vertical limits, the walls and the façades that structure cities. After observing the people he met and listening to their message, JR pasted their portraits up in the streets and basements and on the roof tops of Paris.

Between 2004 and 2006, JR created Portraits of a Generation, portraits of young people from the housing projects around Paris that he exhibited in huge format. This illegal project became official when the City of Paris put JR’s photos up on buildings. At the beginning of his projects, JR wanted to bring art into the street: "In the street, we reach people who never go to museums."

In 2007, with Marco, JR put up enormous photos of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities on either side of the Separation Barrier. Upon his return to Paris, he pasted these portraits up in the capital. For the artist, this artistic act is first and foremost a human project: "The heroes of the project are all those who, on both sides of the wall, allowed me to paste the portraits on their houses."

In 2008, JR undertook an international tour for Women Are Heroes, a project in which he highlights the dignity of women who are often targets during conflicts.

JR calls himself an "urban artivist", he creates pervasive art that he puts up on the buildings in the Paris area projects, on the walls of the Middle East, on the broken bridges of Africa or in the favelas of Brazil. During the pasting phase, community members take part in the artistic process. In Brazil, for example, children became artists for a week. In these artistic acts, no scene separates the actors from the spectators.

After having exhibited in the cities from which JR’s subjects came, the photos traveled from New York to Berlin, Amsterdam to Paris  As JR remains anonymous and does not frame his huge portraits, he leaves a space for an encounter between a subject/protagonist and a passerby/interpreter, and this is the essence of his work.

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