It all started at the Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile RER station in 2000. A 17-year-old boy finds a camera someone threw away. The young Jean René, then more interested in graffiti, then began to photograph the graffiti artists  on the Parisian subway. That was the genesis of the JR phenomenon. The artist documented life on the walls and rooftops of Paris, which he considers as an open-air gallery. This series is exhibited for the first time at Maison Européenne de la Photographie, which lends all its spaces to this exceptional monographic exhibition. JR has a particular relationship to MEP: in 2006, while “illegally” exhibiting his works in Paris, he found in Dominique Bertinotti, Mayor of the 4th arrondissement, and Jean-Luc Monterosso, MEP Director, the biggest champions. The exhibition “Momentum, la mécanique de l’épreuve” retraces the work of the artist from Seine-Saint-Denis. JR takes a different look at the suburbs because this is where he comes from: his series “Portrait d’une génération” shows the hilarious faces of the youngsters from Clichy-Montfermeil. In 2005, he distorted the faces of his models, “like the media distorts our vision of the suburbs”. Suburbs also mean public transports: it is the RER train that brought him a camera, in a magical way almost… A partner of the exhibition, RATP is hosting JR’s works in 11 stations of its network. This is an obvious project for the artist: “coming back to the subway (…) is an opportunity to present my work to people who haven’t asked for it, who have not come to a gallery or museum (…). This is in line with my vision of art, which must reach out to people. While JR has captured everyone’s attention thanks to his monumental photographic collages, the artist is not limited to those: “Momentum” presents various mechanized and hypnotic installations as well. JR’s subversive work is visible at the MEP until February 10, 2019.

Photos: Michael Huard
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