Photo by street artist JR creating his Women Are Heroes project. Note that the images come together once the train hits the correct spot.

Street artist JR from Paris has just released the U.S. trailer of his upcoming documentary that tracks his latest bold global exhibition, “Women Are Heroes.” We first came across a JR piece in Paris 2 years ago, as this enormous pair of women’s eyes was wheat-pasted on the Ille. St. Louis Bridge over the Seine in Paris. 

In a wonderful tribute to women and the hardships many face around the world, JR created some 40 images of black and white portraits of women during war. Most include huge, dramatic eyes. I took several images of it before understanding that it was part of a global project by JR which underlines the dignity of women who are “often the targets of conflicts,” he explains.

Photo by Kathleen Gasperini. Image taken of a JR piece from Ille. St. Louis Bridge over the Seine in Paris. 

Since 2008, he’s managed to post enormous replicas of his black and white images in some of the most down-and-out locations, from Rio de Janeiro to Shanghai to Paris, and others.

Arkitip Magazine is featuring JR in their new issue as the Artist of the Week. What they have to say, taken from Arkitip’s description of their upcoming issue dedicated to JR, and descriptions by JR himself, you can understand why this street artist was awarded to prestigious TED prize in 2010, along with Bill Clinton and Bono.

JR art piece from Women Are Heroes.

“In Rio, he turned hillsides into dramatic visual landscapes by applying images to the facades of favela homes. In Kenya, for his project “Women Are Heroes,” he turned Kibera into a stunning gallery of local faces. In 2006, he created ‘Portrait of a generation’; a project in the slums of Montfermeil, France. In this project he created portraits of (supposed) suburban “thugs” that he then posted in huge formats in the bourgeois districts of Paris. This illegal project became “official” when the Paris City Hall wrapped its building with JR’s photos.

Then in 2007 he created Face 2 Face along with friend and art activist Marco. It was the largest illegal photo exhibition ever produced. JR posted enormous portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities, on the both sides of the Security fence / Separation wall. The experts said it would be impossible, but he did it. There was subsequently a book published and a documentary made on the project. In 2008, he embarked for a long international trip for “Women’; a project in which he underlines the dignity of women who are often the targets of conflicts.”

Image from Kibera of JR’s work.

As JR explains his work, he “exhibits freely in the streets of the world, catching the attention of people who are not the museum visitors. His work mixes Art and Act, talks about commitment, freedom, identity and limit.”

After he found a camera in the Paris subway, he did a tour of European Street Art, tracking the people who communicate messages via the walls. Then, he started to work on the vertical limits, watching the people and the passage of life from the forbidden undergrounds and roofs of the capital.

Part of the project includes local people coming out to help JR and his team create the pieces.

At a time when the world is in the middle of great change, and brands are grasping at street and graffiti artists in an attempt to gain cred among a new youth culture, you can see here the greater impact this art form has taken and why it also pressures the re-definition of art and role museums play in our culture today.

JR’s documentary of Women Are Heroes will be released first in France starting January 12, 2011.

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