Monsieur JR Goes (Back) to Washington

Well, sort of. The French photographeur (who was responsible for the former “I am Man” mural on 14th and T last year) isn’t actually in D.C. this week, but his Inside Out/ 11M project is and you have an opportunity to participate.

On March 2, 2011, JR won a TED prize and in his acceptance speech, he called for the use of art to turn the world upside down. Inspired by his large-format street “pastings,” he launched Inside Out, a global participatory art project that gives regular people an opportunity to share their portrait to make a statement and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art. Here in the District, the 3 day project is part of a sub-category of Inside Out: Inside Out /11M, a new, nationwide effort by JR and the Inside Out Project to raise awareness of the plight of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the US but also create a portrait of America that shows its diversity (we’re all either immigrants or descendants of immigrants after all…)

While each Inside Out project is temporary in nature (like most street art), each action around the world is documented, archived and documented online. So far, over 120,000 people from more than 108 countries have participated. And over the next 3 days, you can too DC!!

Monsieur JR Goes to Washington

While the entire city is bubbling with Natitudes and buzzing about the Expos Nationals this afternoon, I have been busy obsessing over the new mural that just went up at 1401 T Street, NW. JR is a French artist who considers himself a photographer first, a street artist second and an activist third. His civil-right themed 14th street mural reflects all three elements of his work.

“I am Man” Mural at 14th and T Street NW. Photo by moi, taken at 2PM on Wednesday, October 10 2012 

JR began his career of taking art outside of the traditional setting of museum in Paris, where we have a LOT of museums! He plastered pictures of suburbian youths first on the facade of the grim subsidized housing projects where they live, then on the nicer buildings of posh parisian neighbourhoods. His illegal street art was just the sort of thing the French adore and he received a pretty good Parisian official stamp of approval when he was then asked to wrap Paris’ Hôtel de Ville with his photographs. Since then, this TED Prize winning Frenchie has been pasting large-scale black and white portraits in cities around the world, especially tense areas like Rio’s favellas, the wall between Israel and Palestine, Kenya etc. On two occasions, his work has taken him to the United States…

Inside Out – New York, on the high line [picture courtesy of JR] 
JR pasting in New York, from Inside Out Lakota tribe project, at the corner of Prince & Mulberry. Photo by moi. 
Wrinkles of the City – Los Angeles [picture courtesy of JR] 

… and Washington, D.C. is his third. Brought to the district by Contemporary Wing art gallery (1412 14th street, NW), the civil right themed mural at 1401 T Street NW is part of the artist’s “Unframed” series, which reinterprets in huge formats photos from important photographers taken from the archives of museums. For D.C., he chose a photograph by Civil Rights movement photographer Ernest Withers, of the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968. I think it’s a great addition to our urban canvas and I’m thrilled that I can now add “had a mural by JR” to the list of thing Washington and Paris have had in common 😉

Pont Louis Philippe decorated by JR to promote Women as Heroes [picture courtesy of Jean-Paul Margnac]