JR puts New York centre stage, from ballet to Ellis Island
Frieze fever may be over, but there’s still plenty of reason to linger in the English capital as Lazarides Rathbone gallery launches an exhibition by the Parisian artist JR. The self-styled photograffeur – a portmanteau that marries his photography and graffiti art practices – is presenting all-new works from a duet of recent series, Les Bosquets (2014-present) and Unframed Ellis Island (2014-present).
Spread over two floors of the London gallery, the show, entitled ‘Crossing’, pits large-scale colour prints against the enigmatic artist’s provocative black-and-white paper artworks.
The Unframed Ellis Island project explores New York’s historic gateway to the millions of immigrants that entered the United States. It’s a series that is sure to strike a chord for many of the exhibition’s visitors, echoing Europe’s spiralling migrant crisis. A short film (starring a suitably gravelly Robert De Niro and penned by Eric Roth) is a particularly haunting tribute to the landmark’s now-abandoned hospital, which has been taken over JR’s riveting art installations.
It’s a stark contrast to the spirit-lifting troupe of ballet dancers arcing fluidly across the second series on view. Created in collaboration with the New York City Ballet, Les Bosquets saw JR step into the choreographer’s seat for the first timewas inspired by his inaugural art project, Portrait of a Generation, and the 2005 riots in France.
To mark the London show, Phaidon is publishing the first major monograph on the artist, available for purchase now. Eschewing the traditional foreword, the new tome introduces JR’s story with a specially commissioned graphic novel by comic artist Joseph Remnant, and charts his meteoric rise from street artist to urban activist.