Street Artist JR Does L.A.:Faces Pop up on Buildings from Venice to Downtown
Maybe you've noticed that Los Angeles is a flurry of street art activity lately, with Banksy up for an Oscar and all. Another stealth creative foreigner arrived last week. JR, the 27-year-old Parisian artist-slash-activist, has brought his colossal, office park-sized Xeroxes to a neighborhood near you.
With his identity cloaked by a pseudonym taken from the classic American TV show Dallas, JR, wearing his omnipresent fedora and sunglasses, is not easily recognized. His work, however, is immediately distinguishable in the places where he chooses to post, mostly international slums and ghettos.
JR's Los Angeles visit marks the third installment of his expansive project The Wrinkles of the City. The first two were in Cartagena, Spain, and Shanghai in 2010.
JR chooses his subjects and locations carefully, shooting 28mm black-and-white portraits of the locals and then mounting his city-sized, albeit illegal, exhibits on the buildings his subjects inhabit.
The Los Angeles edition of The Wrinkles of the City features JR's craft on 20 walls, slowly revealed over 10 days, beginning Feb. 17. (The Weekly's culture blog, Style Council, is posting each day's new walls, complete with a Google map of the sites, under an exclusive arrangement with the artist.)
The series consists of raw photographs of residents selected through mutual friends, a casting call and man-on-the-street interviews. The portraits are supersized on a blotter and wallpapered onto buildings across the city. So far, JR's work has popped up in Venice, on Melrose Avenue and downtown. The innovative result is part Walker Evans, part Christo.
This is the largest project JR has undertaken in the United States. "This was the first time I was able to interact so much with a city, the people, and the amount of photographs everywhere merging with the landscape," he explains. "I choose these places because of how the city evolves against its history. China, in Shanghai especially, is definitely a place where they are erasing all kinds of architectural history. The only witnesses to this history are the elderly people. That's why I chose Cartagena and Shanghai, but that's not why I chose L.A. for The Wrinkles of the City." (He laughs.)