The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program (DFP) staffers love watching great artists in action. DFP had the opportunity to do just that on a recent sunny L.A. afternoon, when street artist JR and documentarian Alastair Siddons invited us to see the pasting of JR’s latest street installation, “Wrinkles,” on the wall outside Sushi Roku in West Hollywood.
Coming off of his inspiring speech at TED Long Beach, JR continues his world tour leaving a trail of his signature wall pastings behind him as a gift to the citizens of each city he visits. His pastings are blown up portraits of people in the streets, confronting passerbys like large subway or bus ads. He first gained recognition with his portraits of youths from housing projects in the suburbs of Paris, which he pasted in bourgeois areas of the city during the height of racial and anti-immigrant tensions. Since then, he has visited city after city, reflecting the faces of people in the street right back at them in unflinching grandiosity. He has posted portraits on rooftop favelas in Brazil and on the wall separating Israel and Palestine, just to name a few.
We managed to connect with him during a two-day stop in L.A. for "Wrinkles." The West Hollywood portrait, which shows a man's eyes peaking through his hands, reveals every crevice and fold of his skin in larger-than-life detail, accentuated by the natural bumps and indents in the brick wall it covers (as well as the added wrinkles provided by clumsy amateur Sundance Institute staffers who attempted to play artist assistant for a day). There is nothing more ironic in the context of preternaturally wrinkle-free Los Angeles, the Botox capital of the world.
The DFP thanks JR and Alastair again for one of our more memorable lunch breaks! And people of L.A., be sure to pay attention to those faces staring back at you when you're in West Hollywood, Echo Park, or Downtown Los Angeles. We need to be reminded every once in a while that we're not a city of cars, but of people too.