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Brooklyn Street Art

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JR on Houston Wall, at PACE Gallery, on Cover of Time Magazine with “Guns In America”

Posted on October 27, 2018

On a day in the United States with yet another mass shooting, this one at a synagogue in Pittsburg, JR has introduced a new massive artwork that talks about guns in America, a seemingly intractable, unsolvable issue that makes the country rank as one of the most violent year after year.

JR x Time “Guns In America”. Pace Prints. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“It’s a metaphor of what’s happening in the US,” says photographer, filmmaker, Street Artist, and social commentator JR, who has just installed a new mural on the Houston Wall in New York City on a sunny Friday where hundreds of curious New Yorkers stop and examine the new artwork while heavy trucks, honking cars, and periodic police and fire alarms whiz by.

The night before at Pace Gallery in Chelsea the conservatively stylish French art phenom hosted an unveiling of the same image, rather a composited video of 245 separately shot moving images, projected across a huge wall in the space for guests to contemplate. A masterstroke of art and sociology, “The Gun Chronicles: A Story of America” presents opinions and perspectives from Americans across the range – hunters, victims, law officers, medical professionals, religious leaders, politicians, activists, surviving family members.

JR x Time “Guns In America” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As we gaze at the quietly glowing and slowly moving images, we comment to the artist that it has a strangely calming and hypnotic quality, considering the range of deep feelings and emotions that the topic of gun violence engenders throughout the country, including many of these subjects. He tells us that he didn’t necessarily know the individual stories of everyone he was filming at the time of the sessions, but “I was aware of the emotions that were happening in many of the subjects. They were quite strong.”

By providing this very thorough collection of voices to be heard inside of one project, the artist enables viewers to truly countenance the complexity of a wrenching topic that much of the talking-head media flatly reduce to its simplest polarity. He walks on the sidewalk and rides in the lift carefully scanning the faces of the subjects and talks with the handful of them who have travelled here with him to watch the installation. In a way, JR is doing the job that many have been unsuccessful at; contemplating the vast grey area and finding common ground.

JR x Time “Guns In America”. Pace Prints. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: When you went into the project did you have one idea of the issue, but after completing it something perhaps changed in your mind about it? Was there something voiced by others that helped you understand how volatile the issue is?
JR: I think that when I got into this project I knew very little about the issue except what I heard in the media and it was really hard for me to understand, being French. To see how little kids could have access to such firearms and to see that such drama can happen across the country. So I really went naively trying to understand from every angle, every perspective, trying to learn from the people’s narrative, from the people’s story, and to hear what they have to say.

And it is interesting because you find a lot of common ground between people. There is fear, fear of the other, what people might say about them or about their beliefs and actually what I realized when you listen to a lot of the stories was that a lot of people would agree on a common ground that certain people should not have access to certain firearms and they would almost all agree to a certain regulation. It’s just that that conversation is not really happening. So I hope that this mural can be one part of starting that conversation between people.

JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A collaborative project with TIME magazine, the three-page fold out cover of the November 5th edition features a carefully diagrammed listing of all the participants on the reverse side. The website created for the project gives more depth into each individual.

By clicking on the person a visitor to the site will learn their name, age, and position professionally or in life – along with a concise recorded statement from the person. The voices are resolute, halting, tender, defiant, wisened, sobbing, proud.

JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The editor of the magazine Edward Felsenthal, recalls on the website that the cover of the magazine in June of 1968 also featured a contemporary artist for that time, Roy Lichtenstein, who “marked a series of heart-breaking assassinations” with his artwork on the cover with the title “The Gun in America.”

The artwork now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery and is as relevant 50 years later as the day it was published, with the new pluralic title of “Guns in America” today possibly referring to the measureless proliferance of weapons in the US over the intervening five decades, the $13.5 billion dollar revenue of guns and ammunition sold annually and the 263,223 full-time jobs related to the firearm industry. Guns are America.

“I shoot competitively all over the country… ,” says Rob Vadasz, 44, “a firearm is as engrained in our culture as almost any other part of the American story and it’s not something that can be turned off,” says a stern looking white man with short hair who is listed on the website as an agent for the U.S. Border Patrol in Tampa, Florida.

JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Amy Dillon, 38

U.S. Marine Corps veteran and firearms instructor / Summerville, South Carolina

“We’ve been afforded certain rights by our constitution..”

Omni Jahwar, 17

High school student / Grand Prairie,Texas

“I go to school fearing that my life may be taken in Pre-Calculus or Astronomy..”

Candace Fleming, 40

Youth mentor and training director, Urban Specialists / Desoto, Texas

“My first encounter with guns was when my father was shot and killed in the head. I was five years old..”

Sung Song, 42

Respiratory therapist and U.S. Army veteran / Dallas, Texas

“My experience in the Army and in the military has helped shaped how I feel and think about the gun control debate..”

Brittany Fairchild, 30

Emergency-room nurse / Dallas, Texas

“I was in charge on the night of the police shootings. It is a very difficult subject to talk about. It’s a night that I will never forget.”

Michael Foreman, 65

Trauma surgeon / Dallas, Texas

“I deal with it professionally, taking care of victims of gunshot violence… I also am what most people would refer to as a “gun nut”.

JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Dianna Muller from Tulsa, Oklahoma stands in front of the JR mural on Houston Street:

“As a woman I really feel like the bottom line is, the gun issue is a woman’s issue, it’s the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter if a 250 pound man is trying to kick in my door and eventually does, I have a way to defend myself. I don’t have to be a victim, and I do not have to get raped, and I do not have to get murdered, I do not have to get beat up. I don’t want that on anybody so I really want everybody to know how to protect themselves”.


JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Lauren Hartnett of Staten Island, New York stands in front of the JR mural on Houston Street:

“As an advocate for the second amendment it gives me a different perspective on a lot of other issues that have been brought up and are a high topic of discussion. One of those being feminism and women empowerment, and in my opinion nothing is more empowering, or nothing screams feminism like a woman being capable and able to take care of herself and protect herself and her family”.


JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Antong Lucky from Dallas, Texas stands in front of the JR mural on Houston Street:

“Once I got out of prison I began a war to end the cycle of gangs and guns in our community. I wanted people to understand that we got a lot of stuff in common than we do against each other and that we needed to work together. A lot of times in this culture you can never find the common thread, the common cause because we are so busy screaming our point and trying to be right. I wanted to make sure that for me and for my kind in order to be able to find the right solutions you have to be able to listen, you have to be able to talk and you have to be able to find a common ground and agree on a common ground.”


JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. The team who helped JR installed the mural on the wall. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. JR shown here with Jessica Goldman Srebnick of Goldman Global Arts and owner of the Houston Wall. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

JR x Time “Guns In America”. Houston / Bowery Wall. New York City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 


For more on this project and to know about each of the subjects featured on the photograph and to listen to each of their stories and opinions on the issue click on the link below:

http://time.com/guns-in-america/

 

 

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