Galleria Continua is pleased to present in its Roman spaces the first solo exhibition of JR. Born in the early 2000s through his street collages documenting life in the suburbs of Paris, JR quickly established himself as a leading figure on the international art scene, investigating the social and economic fabric of contemporary urban landscapes. By creating art from action, exhibiting outside the confines of museums, JR perpetuates his commitment to changing the way people perceive the world through art.
In this way, the artist generates porosity between communities, geographies and people, creating a necessary space for dialogue and understanding. Since his first wild collages in the streets of Paris, JR has had solo exhibitions in prestigious institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum (2019), SFMOMA (2019) or the Palais de Tokyo (2017). He has been invited to create monumental installations in iconic museums and historical sites such as the Louvre (2016, 2019), the Pyramids of Giza (2021) or the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (2018).
This exhibition brings together for the first time the works of JR's largest and most iconic anamorphosis: the Breaches, which became viral symbols of the inaccessibility of culture during the pandemic. Made in Rome and Paris in 2021, these monumental installations use anamorphosis-the technique of distorting an image so that it becomes recognizable only when viewed from a specific angle-to reveal what is, was, or might be hidden from our view. We present here the latest vestiges of these bold large-scale collages, along with an exclusive anamorphosis created in situ for the occasion of this exhibition. Together, these works bring us back to the true essence of JR's artistic practice, as he told Hans Ulrich Olbricht in 2022: "The gluing, the preparation, the installation: all this is art. The photo is a reminder of it: I don't call myself a photographer."
With "The Wound," JR has created a monumental work - 33 meters high and 28 meters wide - that represents a giant gash on the 15th-century facade of Florence's best-known palazzo: Palazzo Strozzi. Installed in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic Tuesday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. JR 15/09/2023 - 4/11/2023 WEAKNESS that has hit all sectors of culture hard, the artist materialized the wound that Covid-19 was inflicting on all art spaces in the world: the deprivation of their essence and the prevalence of uncertainty. However, JR's message was also one of hope: as the monument's facade was cracked open, it revealed the splendid colonnade of the Palazzo's courtyard, an imaginary exhibition hall filled with Florence's most precious works of art-including an upside-down Birth of Venus-and the library of the National Institute for Renaissance Studies. Through the wound, confined Florentines were able to reconnect with their heritage and remember that, behind closed doors, their city's treasures are still alive, all the more reason to resist.
A few months later, JR was invited to take action on another temporarily inaccessible palace of great architectural and historical importance: the Palazzo Farnese, home of the French Embassy in the heart of Rome. JR took the ambassador's wish to "open the palace to the public during renovations" literally and tore off the building's facade with a collage of even larger proportions, over 600 square meters. From a mineral abyss, treasures from the Farnese collection emerge from different eras: from the Salviati frescoes that still adorn the Ambassador's office to the long-lost Hercules Farnese restored in its place. In this surreal composition, the palace's sumptuous rooms seem to float at the intersection of spatial and historical vanishing points-Point of Escape, in Italian, gives the installation its name.
Prior to his installation at Palazzo Farnese, JR had already pushed his architectural quest one step further, redesigning the entire topography of the emblematic Trocadero Esplanade in Paris. In place of an iconic perspective deeply ingrained in the collective psyche, Parisians and tourists discovered the Eiffel Tower sitting astride a huge precipice, leaving the noise, pollution and crowds of the city at the bottom of a narrow valley. This monumental installation questioned the urbanization of the French capital, analyzing the role that historic monuments and art occupy in the fabric of the city while shedding a harsh light on the issue of socio-spatial segregation in Paris, one of the most expensive cities in the world.
JR immortalized these installations and their encounters with passersby at different times of day, documenting the ways in which the evolving nature of daylight interacted with anamorphosis to create an infinity of unique and ephemeral scenarios. Among the rare reminders of these monumental works of art, these printed images were mounted on Dibond-the material JR uses for his collages-to affirm the direct line of descent that links the photographs to the installation they represent, two parts of the same total work of art. Alongside the large-scale photographs, the artist has created early works-in-progress in the "Wound" and "Escape Point" series specifically for this exhibition. Together, they reveal the meticulous preparation and staging of essential elements involved in the execution of these monumental installations. Preparatory drawings, site photos and floor plans are printed, laser-cut and layered together to form images that open a window into JR's creative process.
The works presented in the Cabinet de Curiosités open the exhibition to the diversity of JR's broader practice, both in terms of means and projects. From the emblematic "Les Bosquets" series to the first large-scale anamorphosis at Le Louvre, via the most recent "Déplacé-e-s" project, this selection allows visitors to grasp the guiding principles of two decades of unique work that speaks of commitment and identity.
JR (1983) exhibits freely on the streets of the world, capturing the attention of those who are not typical museum visitors. From the suburbs of Paris to the favelas of Brazil to the streets of Istanbul, JR makes giant portraits of little-known people. In 2011 he received the TED Prize, following which he created Inside Out, a global participatory art project that allows people around the world to receive their portraits in the form of large posters to be installed in a public space in support of an idea, project or cause. As of July 2022, more than 450,000 people from more than 141 countries have participated by creating their own installations or breaking into one of the mega photo booths.
His recent projects include a large-scale installation in a maximum-security prison in California, a TIME Magazine cover story on guns in America, a video mural with 1. 200 people presented at SFMOMA, a collaboration with the New York City Ballet, an Oscar-nominated documentary directed together with Nouvelle Vague legend Agnès Varda, a huge installation on the Pantheon in Paris, one on the Louvre pyramid, a monumental "Diego Rivera-style" mural in the suburbs of Paris, giant scaffolding at the 2016 Rio Olympics, an exhibition inside the decommissioned Ellis Island hospital, a social restaurant for the homeless and refugees in Paris, and a giant installation at the U.S.-Mexico border fence.
By remaining anonymous, JR leaves the possibility of an encounter between the subject/protagonist and the passerby/interpreter. This is what JR's work is all about: raising questions.