French Artist, JR, Covers Building at 14th and T Street, NW

14th and T St, NW

From Contemporary Wing:

This October, Washington D.C., joins international cities like Havana, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, London, Hong Kong and New York in welcoming one of JR’s projects. JR brings UNFRAMED, a project started in Vevey, Switzerland, Grottaglie, Italy, and São Paulo, Brazil, to Washington DC. UNFRAMED is a urban project in which JR uses images from famous and anonymous photographers and reinterprets them by taking them out of context, giving the history of photography a new meaning.

JR covered a building at 1401 T Street, NW with celebrated Civil Rights Photographer Ernest Wither’s (Memphis, 1922 – 2007) image of the “I Am Man” demonstration, the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, the last march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before his assassination in April 1968.

The installation happened on October 9 – 10th.

Ed. Note: In Jan. 2012 we heard that Stubs Kitchen and Wine would be coming to the building at 1401 T Street, NW.

Below is a great perspective from ekelly80:

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

21 Comment

  • What a great mural.

    MLK made numerous trips to Memphis in support of the sanitation workers, who were being organized by AFSCME. In fact, the night before he was killed, MLK spoke to the striking workers and delivered his famous “Mountaintop” speech:

    • +1

      MLK JR. was a trade unionist, as he understood that economic justice and social justice are intertwined.

  • I love everything about this.

  • Looks cool; I just hope it won’t be difficult to get it off the brick afterward.

  • Walked past this on Sunday and was really impressed with the installation. It’s a cool image and interesting commentary on the history of 14th St after the MLK assination in ’68.

    That said, is anybody else rubbed a bit the wrong way to have a French artist re-interpreting America’s civil rights struggle? Seems like JR could be more influential highlighting “inégalité” in the Paris suburbs than by picking at the scabs of US racism.

    • the French don’t want to touch the banlieue issues. it’s immodest.

    • no one in DC would recognize a reference to French civil rights struggles.

      • I think Annonny was suggesting that perhaps JR should do his (?) thing in France addressing French issues, not that he address French issues in D.C.

        • If you recall the National Day of Service during the Obama Inauguration also fell on MLK Day, more or less (January 2009). My church did its regular homeless outreach that day but opened it wide to the community for the National Day of Service. A French filmcrew stopped by to iterview our coordinator. The interviewer kept mentioning MLK day. We replied, said, “this has nothing to do with MLK Day. It is a nationl day of service.” But the film crew was set on discussing MLK Day and they kept looking for angles to discuss that. Us: “No, no, this is a national day of service for the inauguration.” French filmcrew: “Yes, thanks, but as to Martin Luther King, what do you think, etc etc etc?”

    • Civil rights struggles are universal. A Frenchman creating this art is no stranger than an American creating art that honors Mahatma Gandhi.

    • JR has in fact done a series on the Parisian banlieue. It was one of the first projects that made him famous and is a really impressive series about immigration, perception, race, and city/suburb divides. He’s since done work all over the world, highlighting social issues. He received a TED prize for his work. Learn more here:

  • Doesn’t it seem a little wrong not to depict the Civil Rights struggles that occured right there on 14th St? Seems like it would have been a great way to maintain some of it’s history in the gentrified neighborhood.

  • Love the mural, but I have to wonder – why hasn’t this space been leased? It’s in such a prime location…

  • The French alawys want to talk about the 1960s so this does not surpise me. But I thought, personally, it was a trip back to what we seem to be moving away from, and I pondered why is it being brought front and center this way? I think something more upbeat would have been appropriate. To sum up: Not great timing. Just my pensees.

  • I love it, and don’t care that it was done by a Frenchman!

  • I think it is a horrid mess. I think people are all caught up in the Frenchness of it and think it must be cool. It is worse than graffiti.

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