Parisian photograffeur JR returns to Lazarides Rathbone, bringing the freedom and liberty of his art on the streets into the gallery. It is without exaggeration that the artist is landmarked for owning the biggest gallery in the world, from tower blocks to entire streets and neighbourhoods – where he once turned the separation wall between Israel and Palestine into a winding pathway of amicability through portraits. Unbeknownst to the community at the time, the portraits of the Palestinians were plastered on the Israeli side, and the Israeli’s on the Palestinian side.
28 Millimeters, Face2Face: Separation Wall, Palestinian Side In Bethlehem, March 2007
His monumentally scaled projects are targeted more towards a community, generation or society who lack a strength in voice than to a reason of aesthetic. JR has always appealed to represent honestly by using our quotidian surroundings as both the subject and object of his artworks.
His newest body of work follows a continuation from the acclaimed series of Les Bosquets and UNFRAMED Ellis Island – featuring a mix of colour prints as well as the artist’s signature wood mounted paper pieces.
In 2004, JR executed an immersive exhibition on the walls of the Cité des Bosquets, a neighbourhood in Montfermeil well known for the troubling social issues from police power to race riots and drug dealing, the same neighbourhood where the 2005 French riots were unleashed. As JR settled into the heart of the neighbourhood where he took portraits of the local youth, his photographs played an unplanned visual backdrop throughout the unfolding chaos and worldwide spread of imagery in the media. Following the riots, JR expanded the exhibition from the slums and suburbs to the bourgeois neighbourhoods in Paris – thus marking Portrait of a Generation.
Ten years later, in 2014, JR was invited by the New York City Ballet to create a large scale art installation in collaboration with the Company dancers, making his debut as a choreographer. The shooting of the film ventured back into the heart of Les Bosquets, with the estate towers and cement courtyards as a stage for the performers choreographed by JR, performed by Lil Buck with music by Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, Woodkid and Ben Wallfisch. JR’s new series of artworks featuring Les Bosquets draws from images of these interventions within his time in New York and Paris.
The UNFRAMED Ellis Island project also plays an integral part of JR’s solo show. As world-wide conflicts are creating mass upheaval and migration, vast numbers of people are undertaking perilous journeys to seek refuge. Bringing alive the memory of Ellis Island through a series of nonpareil, site-specific installation pieces taken from the very walls of Ellis Island hospital – black and white portrait plastered across lockers and storage units – JR reminds us of the hardships endured by children and their families deemed unfit for entry into the United States with an unmistakeable sense of empathy fuelled with determination.
Ellis, a 14 minute film directed by JR starring Robert De Niro tells the elusive story of the millions of immigrants processed through the centre with the hopes of pursuing a new life. Shot in the setting of the now abandoned Ellis Island Hospital where some were released, we are reminded of the thousands who were detained and never discharged.
Ellis – TRAILER:
Crossing runs from Friday 16th October 2015 to Thursday 12th November 2015 at Lazarides Rathbone
11 Rathbone Place
Luciana Garbarni (@LucPierra)