Hidden behind his signature sunglasses and fedora, JR, like his now-famous British counterpart Banksy, is a man of mystery. There are certain facts that everyone seems to agree on: He was born in France. He is 28 years old. He got his start as a graffiti writer, but has since morphed into a hybrid photographer/street artist. He refers to himself as a “poster artist.”
“When I was doing graffiti when I was 14, 15 years old, I was tagging my name — leaving my mark — but I stopped pasting my pictures and started pasting other peoples' photos and my whole world became about staying invisible and making others visible — and the street is the best medium for that,” JR explained.
JR is famous for putting up black-and-white photographs of faces on the sides of buildings — and for going big. Recent projects include “Face 2 Face,” which featured images of Israelis pasted on the homes and businesses of Palestinians in the Middle East and vice versa; and “Women are Heroes,” which showcased photos of women pasted on the walls and roofs of their homes in the slums of Kenya and favelas of Brazil.
When JR first arrived in Los Angeles about a month ago, he was not yet a household name. But after putting up more than a dozen murals everywhere from downtown to the beach, he has achieved rock-star status, leaving autographs in the form of giant murals throughout the city.
In Los Angles, JR was on a mission: To install the third and final segment of “The Wrinkles of the City,” a project that paired images of old people (thus the “wrinkles” of the title) with even older buildings in Cartagena, Spain and Shanghai. Thanks to L.A.'s lack of ruins, the project took on a different meaning here.
“'The Wrinkles of the City' is a project about history, memory, architecture, urbanism and, of course, most of all, people,” said Emile Abinal, a member of JR's crew, who is often described as his right-hand man. “The first two parts of the project were to contrast the history of the city with the memory of the people by putting the wrinkles of the people on the wrinkles of city, which are destroyed buildings, ruins, etc.”
“In Los Angeles, it is about image,” Abinal added. “What is your image when you are in the city of plastic surgery, of Hollywood, of youthfulness — where normally wrinkles are not allowed?”
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