JR's mural in California prison

JR creates huge mural in US prison

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)

French artist JR raises awareness and humanizes the situation of inmates in a prison in Tehachapi, California

Chronicles, JR‘s new installation intrigued us last month with its narrative and the way it shows the artist’s career, from its beginnings. JR created Tehachapi, his newest piece.

JR creates monumental piece in the US
Courtesy: Camille

Jean René, also known as JR, created a giant mural in a maximum security prison in Tehachapi, California. To achieve this, the institution helped organize the installation, which involved several inmates. The artist and his team interviewed the most senior prisoners and captured their stories and portraits.

"Tehachapi" by JR
Courtesy: Jesse Watson

We know that JR is an artist as well as a storyteller committed to various causes. Therefore, his art is also a tool to tackle various topics that he wants to talk about in a more visual and human way.

“I’ve always been interested in prisons. After all, prisons are like canvases, enclosed by walls (frames). When I got there, I understood that most of these men were imprisoned when they were teenagers, between 13 and 20…” The artist shared this on his Instagram account.

JR creates monumental piece in the US
Courtesy: Camille Pajot

“I told them about my project and made it clear that I didn’t want to know what crimes the men had committed. They had a trial, they were sentenced, and I’m not their judge. However, a couple of guys left because they felt their presence would be embarrassing to their families or to the families of their victims.”

JR creates monumental piece in the US
Courtesy: Camille Pajot

Some men who were imprison returned to assist in the production

In total, the work consisted of 338 strips of paper. Additionally, the important detail of the production is that some ex-cons returned to the prison to paste the images. Many of them belong to the major population of prisoners in rehab, and others are sentenced to life in prison.

JR creates monumental piece in the US
Courtesy: Camille Pajot

Can you imagine having the courage to return to a place that represents a very harsh episode in your life? Well, they did, and they made a point that they are not the same people they were when they were in prison. They grew, transformed, and have a second chance at life. So, basically, they collaborated with the artist, his team and the prison staff to create the mural.

The artist collaborated with prison staff to create the mural in California
Courtesy: Marc Azoulay

In another post, he mentions that some inmates will be released thanks to a change in the law that sentenced them years ago in the first place. “During the process, I was allowed to use my phone and shared stories about the project on their networks.”

With this project, J R seeks to give voice to the inmates, who were deprived of it for a long time. In addition, he shared that some of the men came to speak, which allowed him and his team to meet amazing people.

"Tehachapi" Mural process at California prison
Courtesy: Marc Azoulay

“A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to do something in this prison,” said the artist. He wanted to try to motivate people who were there for life through this piece,

"Tehachapi" mural
JR creates a monumental piece in prison | Courtesy: JR

Finally, the project will be fully experienced through an app for Android and iPhone. In it, you can explore the artwork and hear the stories some men decided to share.

By Karla Mariana Huerta and Fernando Huacuz

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)