"The chronicles of San Francisco", SFMoMA, 2019-2020

"The chronicles of San Francisco", SFMoMA, San Francisco, CA, USA

May 23rd, 2019 - April 27th, 2020

The Chronicles of San Francisco are presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in Spring 2019. Long-inspired by the work of Mexican painter Diego Rivera (1886-1957), who completed three murals in San Francisco beginning in 1931, JR has begun to imagine how a whole city and its diversity of residents can be represented through art.

“In a painting, it’s usually the perspective that focuses the attention of the viewer.”

After his first mural of Les Bosquets, a neighborhood near Paris where he has worked for many years, JR chose San Francisco for his next urban mural subject and the first that strives to represent an entire city. San Francisco’s long muralist tradition and its stark contrasts—featuring both immense innovation and wealth as well as one of the country’s highest rates of child homelessness—has made it a vibrant and complex site for the artist to explore and capture.

The project began in January of 2018 when JR and his team roamed San Francisco, parking their 53' trailer truck, with a photo-studio installed inside, in more than 22 different locations around the city to capture portraits of anyone passing by who wished to participate.

Over the course of the project, nearly 1,200 people were filmed, photographed and interviewed; each person choosing the way they were to be represented in the mural, which is ultimately a portrait of San Francisco and its people. Commenting on his innovative practice and this project in particular, JR says, “In a painting, it’s usually the perspective that focuses the attention of the viewer. With this new mural technique, we break the perspective: Every person is presented at the same size, captured with the same light. No one is more important than another. It is not a group photo, but rather a group of photos. I work with the individuals as they decide how they want to be represented.

The mural aims to be a picture of society, not depicting good and bad, but rather showing that both sides are present in everyone.” In the exhibition at Pace in Palo Alto, JR showcases four new and different artistic techniques and mediums. Video installations will give visitors a perspective of the moving mural on a more intimate scale. “Work-in-progress” pieces, including photographs and preparatory sketches and drawings, show the process of assembling the thousands of individual portraits and detailed scenery shots into one single image. Lightboxes will depict different sections of the mural in a highly vivid manner, and lastly, the etched glass artworks will underscore the unique depth and texture within the mural.