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JR: Blow Up

The Renegade Artist Spreads His Work Around the Globe in Filmmaker Matt Black’s Latest Portrait

Young people stare up at the sky from a Hong Kong bridge and a meters-long nude odalisque reclines along the banks of the Seine in artist JR’s infamous posters, explored in a new short from NOWNESS regular Matt Black. The massive, iconic images can be found hand-pasted to crumbling buildings, trains, garbage trucks and bridges, whimsically reclaiming the urban landscape. Now a TED Prize-winner, semi-anonymous JR grew up in the suburbs of Paris and began tagging and “exhibiting” on the streets as a teen. When he found a camera on the Metro, he started taking photographs. Now he’s shaking things up with a new system that allows everyone to print and post works in their own neighborhoods, all for free. “It’s true art. That’s why people want to participate,” says Black, who caught up with the self-described “photograffeur” as part of his Reflections series. Today JR, who views the city as “the biggest gallery in the world,” also shows in more traditional spaces, including Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin and the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Los Angeles MoCA, collaborating with artists such as Jose Parlà and Takashi Murakami. “He’s creating this monster project,” reflects the director, “showing that we’re all human—all equal.”

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Conversations (4)

  • SamOo
    Great idea, great work. In Mexico could be applied as a socio-political trigger showing the existing nonconformity and artistically expressed in this Urban Showcase
    • Posted By SamOo
    • May 15, 2014 at 11:48PM
    • Share Comment:
  • Sellés Domínguez
    Accuracy in the art for aesthetic reasons. The primal essence of the mural, graffiti in their natural environment. Marvelous work!
  • patriciademiranda
    wonderful and impressive work!!
    • Posted By patriciademiranda
    • February 01, 2013 at 5:09AM
    • Share Comment:
  • janjamm
    In many ways this is beautiful, in other ways it is visual pollution.
    • Posted By janjamm
    • January 31, 2013 at 9:07PM
    • Share Comment:

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  • MOST SHARED IN CULTURE
    MOST SHARED IN CULTURE

    Tabitha Denholm: La Mercè

    The Queens of Noize DJ Recreates an Ecstatic Catalan Experience

    Traditional fireworks, fairground rides and giant bubbles blend with club-style dancing in filmmaker Tabitha Denholm’s exuberant video shot during Barcelona’s La Mercè fiesta. “When I was modeling, I was sent there alone on a job while the festival was going on,” explains Denholm of her fascination with the series of explosive and colorful events. “It was quite a Lost in Translation experience and I wanted to recreate that in a filmette.” In addition to making videos for bands such as Florence and the Machine and Ladyhawke, and fashion labels including Markus Lupfer and Tory Burch, Denholm has traveled the world DJing at festivals as part of the duo Queens of Noize. For this shoot, she was accompanied by a skeleton crew of producer Laura Coulson, stylist Madeleine Østlie and 18-year-old Danish model Sylvester Ulv, who has recently appeared in editorials from Dazed & Confused and i-D. The annual Catalan carnival has been celebrated each September since the Middle Ages and was made an official city holiday in 1871; it showcases local entertainment from parades of papier maché giants (gegants I capgrossos in Catalán) and local folk dance (sardana) to a pyrotechnic display by individuals dressed as devils that run through the crowd (correfoc). Denholm has used her cut-and-paste background as a DJ to good effect: her young male protagonist frolics in a medieval rave to "Sandstone" by the San Francisco-based Tamaryn. “This one is a bit of a mash-up,” she says of La Mercè. “All the Catalan traditions were bundled together after Franco, so it's got many different elements aesthetically.”

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  • ON REPLAY
    ON REPLAY

    Daido Moriyama: The Mighty Power

    The Legendary Photographer Plunges Into the Dark Corners and Bright Lights of Hong Kong

    Acclaimed Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama’s sensual approach to the urban landscape is revealed in this edifying short by the Hong Kong-based filmmaker Ringo Tang. Now in his 70s, Moriyama shot to fame when his grainy black-and-white images depicting a post-war Japan in flux won the country’s New Artist Award in 1967 and has since had major retrospectives at the New York Metropolitan Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1999), the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (2008) and, currently, at Tate Modern in tandem with William Klein. His high-contrast, distorted imagery and raw-verging-on-sordid content has influenced the work of countless photographers. Tang’s relationship to the master of harsh street photography is especially poetic: “The Moriyama black has always fascinated me,” the director writes in homage. “A thick slash of heavy black, so overwhelming.” Filmed while Moriyama was in Hong Kong for his first ever solo exhibition there, the short splices examples of his oeuvre with footage of the artist himself, whose short sentences are layered over the industrial beat of the city. The result taps into Moriyama’s engaged, multi-sensory experience of the metropolis, which he investigates using not only sight, but also smell and sound. Observations such as “The past cannot be captured by the present, the present can only be captured in the moment” crystallize what Moriyama refers to as “the mighty power” of photography. 

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