JR exhibits freely in the streets of the world, catching the attention of people who are not typical museum visitors. He creates “Pervasive Art” that spreads uninvited on the buildings of Paris, the favelas in Rio, the separation wall in the Middle-East or the border between the US and Mexico. JR received the TED Prize in 2011, after which he launched hisInside Outproject, an international participatory art project that allows people worldwide to get their picture taken and paste it in public spaces to support an idea and share their experience. In 2013, JR presented his first museum retrospective in the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo and the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati, followed by Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden in 2014 and the HOCA Foundation in Hong-Kong in 2015. In 2016, he was invited by the Louvre to create a site-specific artwork where he made the famous Louvre pyramid disappear through a surprising anamorphosis. He has additionally directed short movies includingLes Bosquets, 2014 andELLIS, 2015 starring Robert De Niro as well as feature documentaries includingFaces, Places, 2017 co-directed with the French filmmaker Agnès Varda and nominated for the Academy Awards in 2018.
Palo Alto—Pace Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by JR, the French artist and photographer known for his large-scale urban works that address socio-economic and political issues. With The Chronicles of San Francisco - Sketches, JR presents a series of works dedicated to the city and people of San Francisco. On view at Pace’s gallery in the heart of Palo Alto from February 6 – March 24, 2019 with an opening reception on Tuesday, February 5, the exhibition will include portraits, works on paper, video installations, lightboxes, and etched glass works—all derived from and inspired by his ambitious mural project The Chronicles of San Francisco to be presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in Spring 2019.
Long-inspired by the work of Mexican painter Diego Rivera (1886-1957), who completed three murals in San Francisco beginning in 1931, JR has begun to imagine how a whole city and its diversity of residents can be represented through art. After his first mural of Les Bosquets, a neighborhood near Paris where he has worked for many years, JR chose San Francisco for his next urban mural subject and the first that strives to represent an entire city. San Francisco’s long muralist tradition and its stark contrasts—featuring both immense innovation and wealth as well as one of the country’s highest rates of child homelessness—has made it a vibrant and complex site for the artist to explore and capture.
The project began in January of 2018 when JR and his team roamed San Francisco, parking their 53' trailer truck, with a photo-studio installed inside, in more than 22 different locations around the city to capture portraits of anyone passing by who wished to participate. Over the course of the project, nearly 1,200 people were filmed, photographed and interviewed; each person choosing the way they were to be represented in the mural, which is ultimately a portrait of San Francisco and its people.
Commenting on his innovative practice and this project in particular, JR says, “In a painting, it’s usually the perspective that focuses the attention of the viewer. With this new mural technique, we break the perspective: Every person is presented at the same size, captured with the same light. No one is more important than another. It is not a group photo, but rather a group of photos. I work with the individuals as they decide how they want to be represented. The mural aims to be a picture of society, not depicting good and bad, but rather showing that both sides are present in everyone.”
In the exhibition at Pace in Palo Alto, JR showcases four new and different artistic techniques and mediums. Video installations will give visitors a perspective of the moving mural on a more intimate scale. “Work-in-progress” pieces, including photographs and preparatory sketches and drawings, show the process of assembling the thousands of individual portraits and detailed scenery shots into one single image. Lightboxes will depict different sections of the mural in a highly vivid manner, and lastly, the etched glass artworks will underscore the unique depth and texture within the mural.
The San Francisco mural project and exhibition at Pace follows a recent monumental mural project created by JR in collaboration with TIME. In October 2018, TIME released a special report on guns in America, and in one of the most ambitious cover projects in TIME’s 95-year-history, TIME partnered with JR to photograph and film 245 Americans in an effort to capture the full scope of the nation’s gun debate in one mural. Over five months, JR and his team, along with a group of TIME journalists, traveled to three cities—St. Louis, Mo.; Washington, D.C.; and Dallas—to record, one by one, people who represent the vast range of voices in American’s gun debated. In addition to serving as the cover of TIME’s special report, JR also presented an interactive video version of the mural in spaces all over the country, including Pace’s gallery in New York.