JR TAKES HIS “INSIDE OUT NYC” PROJECT TO RIKERS ISLAND PRISON

May 6, 2013  |  art, Streets

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Proving his dedication to being a man of the people, French social activist street artist JR has extended his current "Inside Out NYC" public art project from the streets, walls, and billboards of Times Square to the most marginalized population in New York, the inmates of Rikers Island Prison. Packing up his crew of faithful wheatpaste warriors, JR took the team deep into the bowels of the notorious correctional facility to speak with inmates, photograph them, and install their images on the walls of the prison, both inside and out, in a show of solidarity and an expression of the voice public art can give to the residents of any community, whether they're willing inhabitants or not.

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The wheatpaste warriors prepare for their mission

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No traffic on the long road to Hell

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Once inside, no one escapes

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"I wish no one Jail time... spending time there talking with the inmates, they make you realize the price of freedom. The young kids I met were all in search of inspiration, anything that can break the routine of their day. I asked them what en eye on their wall would change? The one who helped us pasting it says he never had the chance to see or experience the power of Art. And by pasting these few strips of paper on the wall he just felt part of something and that was enough for him. He told us how he'll remember all his life this moment... as he wish this was his first and last time in hell" —JR

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Eyes on the inside

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The blank canvas

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Eye of an inmate

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A young inmate sees his new view on the outside world for the first time

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"We just pasted the eye of another Inmate on the 2 South Building of the Rikers Island Jail in New York City. He wanted me to choose his eye looking left as life in jail is all about watching your back... He came out in the jail Yard when we were pasting. He's 18years old, it's his second time in Jail. Even if no one will recognize his eye he knows he's part of a bigger picture. He said "Who's looking at who"? In a way he's happy no one will know who he is so he wont get jealousy from the Inside or be recognized on the outside. On my end I felt this eye is bringing even more oppression next to all to the guards and the video cameras watching the inmates already... But that's what the inmates asked me to do, for them this place is just tuff and that's how they want to remember it. They asked to join us on another pasting one day but this time on the outside." —JR

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Escape from Rikers Island...

All photographs by JR, takao5020, and SolGuy

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