In a lead up to the TED conference earlier this month, $100k prize winner and French street artist, JR, put up his signature work in Los Angeles, although you could hardly tell. The pieces came off as flat and mostly unimpressive, which isn’t the reaction his work normally evokes. Why didn’t these work? It wasn’t until some of his latest takeovers started emerging in Tunisia weeks later that the answer hit me: location, location, location.
In a slick modern metropolis like LA, even his oversized faces drown in a sea of visual pollution, that ironically, may be due to their size, as they can easily being confused with fancy fashion advertisements or billboards, since only brands can afford a medium that big.
But when the same concept is installed in grittier and lesser developed countries, the black and white images pop amidst the starkness of the surrounding landscapes, creating a bold type of expression that can’t be ignored.
Now add a political layer, like the recent upheavals in Tunisia, and the relevance increases exponentially, as he takes the faces of average citizens and populates them in the spaces traditionally reserved for dictators and propaganda. It’s in these type of locations where JR’s art reaches its full potential, not Hollywood Boulevard.