Street artist JR continues to use his art for social commentary with his latest installation on the Mexican side of the US/Mexico border wall. JR and his team constructed an enormous wood support for one of his signature posters, which shows a small child peering over the wall.
Organized together with renowned curator Pedro Alonzo—known for his previous work with Os Gemeos, Shepherd Fairey, Banksy, and Swoon—the piece uses a human face to strike a chord about immigration between the United States and Mexico. Given President Trump’s recent announcement to rescind DACA, which protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children, the subject is all the more timely and powerful.
This isn’t the first time the French artist has used his art to explore the topic of immigration. In 2015, his Ellis Island street art project revealed what life was like for immigrants entering the United States in the 19th century. And, of course, he first gained international attention in 2005 with his wheat pasted photographs of rioters in the Les Bosquets suburb of Paris. These powerful images focused attention on issues of how first and second generation immigrants were integrated—or not—into Parisian society and the tensions it created.
At its core, JR’s work is about faces, and how if we look at one another without prejudice, the world would be a better place. His work on the separation wall between Israel and Palestine was envisioned with this goal in mind. Pasting Palestinian portraits on the Israeli side and Israeli portraits on the Palestinian side, he proved that people couldn’t distinguish one from the other.
Here, with his latest project, JR once again proves that he’s not afraid to tackle difficult topics. And maybe, by looking at this small child curiously peeking into the United States, further dialogue about what it means to immigrate and the relationship between these neighboring countries with be explored.
“I think there is no such thing as art trying to change the world,” JR shared in our exclusive interview. “But being an artist and creating art in tons of different contexts, no matter what the mood is and sometimes against the codes that stand around you, is a way of breaking society and changing the world—just by trying.”
JR and curator Pedro Alonzo are holding an open discussion on the artist’s practice and how immigration figures into his work on September 7, 2017 at 8 pm in Los Angeles at Blum & Poe.