Editor's note: An earlier version of this blog post was published last year.
UNLIKE ART HANGING in galleries, street art has the mojo to smash class boundaries and cultural biases. The eye-opening work of JR, the Paris-based photographer and artist, can be found in France's slums, Brazil's favelas and other impoverished areas. The pieces are large and looming, but still connect on a soulful, human scale. This is public art that people embrace -- not pretend to enjoy, to be polite. All are welcome, and they pass on the spirit. In his new film, Women Are Heroes (see below), a proud old matriach says: "I won't be here, but that doesn't matter. Others may benefit."
From JR's Web site : "JR owns the biggest art gallery in the world. He exhibits freely in the streets of the world, catching the attention of people who are not the museum visitors. His work mixes Art and Act, talks about commitment, freedom, identity and limit."
From the TED video (below), after the global think tank awarded JR $100,000 last year: "I'm not trying to change the world," he says. "But you know when I see a smile up there in the favelas, or down there in Cambodia, in a way I feel like I achieved my goal."
I especially enjoy his ongoing project in Los Angeles, where his work can be seen on old buildings and walls, in many neighborhoods from my youth. My late grandparents ran a grocery store in "Little Tokyo" in downtown L.A., before big business took hold. Relatives lived in the Silver Lake barrio, long before gentrification. And I spent way too many summer days getting charbroiled by the sun at Venice, the funkiest beach town in Southern Cal. Powerful images by JR in L.A., the city of 10 million mulattoes. Migration is a state of mind, and the European artist gets it.
- LAWeekly blogs, "JR Throws 'Westside' Hand Sign on East Wall of Bristol Hotel for 'The Wrinkles of the City' " by Shelley Leopold.
- New York Times Magazine, "Super Colossal Street Art" by Gaby Wood.
- HuffingtonPost.com, "JR's Wholesome Illegalities" by Bill Lasarow.
- ArtInfo.com, "Mysterious Globetrotting Street Artist JR Wins $100,000 TED Prize."
- The Sunday Times, "JR: the Hippest Street Artist Since Banksy" by Ed Caesar.
- BBC.co.uk, "Audio Slideshow: Faces of the Favelas" by Helen Clegg and Paul Kerley.
A look at JR. Video courtesy of the Ted Prize, via YouTube. Video credits: post-production company OTRA, art director Guillaume Cagniard, editor Hugo Caruana, post producer Cyril Bordesoulle, music by Massive Attack, sound mix by les Kouz.