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Street art superstar JR sizes up the city

In the age of artist collectives, the French street artist JR takes group engagement to a new level in cities all over the world. In many cases, the subjects are co-creators. His stratégie: photographs of “ordinary” people are enlarged to poster size and beyond, their faces, or just eyes, pasted onto city walls, water towers, stairs, even the sides and tops of trains, with the help of locals. Eyes hold a particular fascination for the 30-year-old, who keeps his full name secret. The TED Prize recipient did it in Cincinnati in 2011, in collaboration with the Contemporary Arts Center and others. And now, the CAC is bringing JR back to Cincinnati, in a show titled JR that fills its galleries with his photographs, videos, and other artworks, staging the artist’s first museum exhibition. “The point is to show the grasp and ambition and global scale of his art” and re-focus it for a new kind of appraisal, says JR’s guest curator Pedro H. Alonzo. The unique architecture of CAC’s Zaha Hadid building provides the ideal venue. “It’s almost like an urban environment inside the space.” Which is not to say they’re cooping him up. JR will also enlist the Inside Out project, in which a photo booth truck will travel the city. The public will be invited to lend their faces and labor, turning blank walls into faces that look back. “Strong eyes,” as JR calls them, prove that the true architecture of a city is the people who inhabit it.

Sept 21–Feb 2, 2014, Contemporary Arts Center, 44 E. Sixth St., downtown, (513) 345-8400, contemporaryartscenter.org