The artist exhibits his work at the Maison Européenne de la photographie in Paris. A catalog that highlights the gigantism of his works.
From the outset we are invited to a spectacle that we can find playful or harrowing: the model of a container ship that bears witness to the work entitled Women are Heroes where JR had placed the photograph of the eyes of a Kenyan woman on the flanks of the containers of a ship which left from Le Havre. This model is not the only one. Upstairs, this time, they are small trains that show in turn the collages that JR had made on trains in India. We may be fascinated by these spectacular actions, but here, within the walls of a museum, there is a contradiction: we are bound to see them reproduced in miniature and it is difficult to feel the grandiose character of the work. Same for his Giants series. Even if an installation tries to tell the monumentality of these photographs placed on scaffolding, it gives only a vague insight of what they were actually like in Brazil on a huge building in Rio de Janeiro. Condemned to to see only a photograph of a photograph, the visitor can become quickly tired and frustrated.
Especially since the exhibition promessed to go to the bottom of things, but it reaches only half and leaves us in a certain confusion. Indeed, it claims to reveal the behind the scenes of these grandiose installations. But it provides no figures. How many people work on these gigantic scaffoldings to install the work? “Between 40 and 60 people, I do not know very well, “says the artist, while during the openning for the press of the exhibition he chose to not show up and prefered to dialogue through a pipe installed in a small room designed to run model trains. “He prefers to keep the mystery, does not chose to be confronted directly to 40 journalists, but instead to have a secret dialogue with everyone “explains a press officer. Result: we will have only a brief interview, certainly fun, but also binding and vague. We will aslo not know how much these installations cost as administrative papers testify to the size of the enterprise and are fortunately made available to visitors.
Overall the scenography disappoints and lacks information. The Maison Européenne de la photographie goes so far as to refer us to the film Visages Villages of JR and Agnès Varda instead of explaining a photograph. “Just watch ,” the caption says implicitly. Elsewhere, it’s an installation shown for the first time in Europe and to make it work, a visitor must download an application on his or her mobile phone. Some will say that it is a work of the future. Others may see in it an additional way to interfere with people’s lives as finally do all these gigantic installations, currently exposed in the Paris metro during this exhibition. JR everywhere. JR nowhere? Because, by dint of producing similar installations and playing on the same good feelings chord, the artist sometimes gives the impression of going around in circles. Too bad, especially as the exhibition presents his first shots when he followed a group of graffiti artists in Paris in the early 2000s and this series is very beautiful, it gave hope for a great photographer in the making. Where did this flair go, this poignant expression?
JR – « Momentum, la mécanique de l’épreuve »
November 7, 2018 – February 10, 2019
La Maison Européenne de la Photographie
5/7 Rue de Fourcy – 75004 Paris