Back in October, when we were in Boston visiting our daughter, I noticed an odd looking object on the side of the former Hancock Tower as we strolled down Newbury Street. It looked like a man on a floating dock. It made no sense at all why it was there and what it represented. I actually “Googled” it to see what I could find out, but no information was available at the time. So this past weekend while walking down Newbury Street with my daughter again, she said to me, “Oh, that picture on the Hancock Tower was done by some famous street artist.” So, I snapped a few pictures, and did some more research.
The huge mural occupies window space between the 44th and 50th floors of New England’s tallest building (60 stories tall), and it is 150 feet wide and 86 feet tall. The giant black and white image was done by French street artist JR. Similar to his English counterpart, Banksy, JR’s identity is unconfirmed. He has been pasting giant black-and-white photographs on walls all over the world for years now. His various projects have made him a global celebrity. He prefers for his artwork to “emerge” quietly and to let people respond to the imagery.
The image that JR pasted on to the tower is made from perforated vinyl, imprinted with a magnified photograph that he took during his travels. As you can see, the giant image shows a man in his shorts, half-turned away from the viewer. He is standing on something that looks like a floating dock. The key is to see that the image doesn’t treat the building’s glass façade as a blank canvas. Instead, it uses the façade to bring the image to life.
Another recent work of his was the Ellis Screenings—a permanent installation on Ellis Island that opened in 2014. JR went through the image archives and created giant black and white paste ups of immigrants that he added into the abandoned buildings. Those are an absolute “must see”—they give you chills. A short film called Ellis about the installation, which is narrated by Robert DeNiro, was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival this past fall.
JR has done some amazing work all around the globe. Check out more of his work on his website.