JR: Chronicles

Groundbreaking French artist JR is the subject of the Saatchi Gallery's latest exhibition, JR: Chronicles. Peter Gray reports.

He’s been dubbed the ‘French Banksy’ but up until now, graffiti artist JR has been all but unknown in the UK. Well, that looks set to change this autumn as Chelsea’s Saatchi Gallery prepares to host the largest solo museum exhibition of the artist’s work to date, JR: Chronicles.

Curated by Sharon Matt Atkins and Drew Sawyer from the Brooklyn Museum, JR: Chronicles traces the French artist’s career from his very earliest days documenting Parisian graffiti artists to his large-scale architectural interventions in cities worldwide.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The first section of the exhibition focuses on JR’s early work, with several of the artist’s photographic projects. Expo 2 Rue (2001-4), finds JR documenting and pasting photocopies of graffiti artists around his hometown. 

Portrait of a Generation, meanwhile, sees JR shining a spotlight on the economically disadvantaged young people of the Les Bosquets housing project in Montfermeil. The area had been involved in the countrywide riots that engulfed France in 2005, and seeking a way to highlight their plight, JR had created the Portrait of  Generation project. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Alongside his collaborator, Ladj Ly, the artist captured a series of portraits of the young people of Les Bosquets and proceeded to paste those images in a variety of places throughout Paris. The project forced Parisians to challenge their assumptions and biases about the area and its people.

A series of international projects followed as JR sought to expand his area of influence. 2007’s Face 2 Face saw the artist travel to Israel for a project which featured giant portrait diptychs of Israelis and Palestinians pasted on either side of the separation wall and in surrounding towns.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The portraits sought to highlight how essentially similar Israelis and Palestinians are by displaying individuals from each community in pairs groups based on a shared occupation. Without signifying which was which, JR pairs doctors, athletes, artists, and religious leaders. 

The project was the largest illegal photography exhibition ever made in Israel, spanning over eight cities including Bethlehem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and Jerusalem. Photographs, videos, and ephemera from the project will be on view.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Another project from 2008, Women Are Heroes celebrated the achievements of women in public life by mounting large scale images of several individuals in their own communities.

Chronicles will also feature work from JR’s seven year The Wrinkles of the City project, 2011’s global Inside Out photography campaign and the video mural, The Gun Chronicles: A Story of America (2018).

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“JR: Chronicles takes visitors on a global journey through the intimate storytelling of one of today’s most influential contemporary artists. The exhibition opens in London during a key moment in time in which social engagement and the power of communities have taken centre-stage in London and around the world” says Saatchi Gallery’s Partnership Director, Laura Uccello.

JR | Chronicles will be at the Saatchi Gallery from the 4th of JUNE until the 3RD of OCTOBER 2021. More information about the exhibition can be found here.

For information on other great exhibitions in London, please click here.

 

-London's Best Events-
What: art exhibition
When: 4 Jun - 3 Oct 21
Where: Saatchi Gallery
Website: Jr: Chronicles