If On A Spring Day Two Artists...

Henriette Ohno Issue: Section:

On a recent sunny Sunday two young artists met up in New York for their first collaboration, and soon the Little Italy street corner scene had all the makings of a successful impromptu art happening. 
 
There was the audience - neighbors and passer-bys who stopped and stayed, eventually getting coffees and ice creams as they settled in to watch. There were the confused tourists ("I think they are shooting a movie!", "Oh yeah, the one with Robert De Niro!"), and your odd guy with a cat on the head. There was an excitable gallerist, a handful of photographers, there were art fans, the artists' friends, and an extremely cool looking 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon' - kind of monk visiting from the Taoist temple around the corner. 
 
And of course the artists themselves, whose multi-layered collaboration has a similar Russian nestling doll quality to that of a Calvino novel. Chinese artist Liu Bolin and his assistants painted French street artist and photographer JR into a large mural mounted to this Little Italy building's archway, an image that JR had created earlier from a photograph he had taken of Bolin. JR was rendered invisible in the act. 
 
Invisibility may, in very different ways, be in fact the main aspect of both Bolin's and JR's work, which makes their alliance especially exciting. Bolin, also known as 'the invisible man', has in the past put a focus onto places of cultural or socio political importance by disappearing in them in perfect camouflage. And JR, who by the way prefers to remain anonymous/invisible even in the face of rising fame and prestigious awards given, has with his huge photographs of forgotten people, if you will, for example of women of destitute regions in Africa or inhabitants of Rio De Janeiro's slums, given visibility to their condition.
 
That March afternoon, on that street corner in Manhattan, every step of Bolin's and JR's work had been visible - the camouflage painting of JR, his careful positioning within the mural and the last minute touch ups - and still the effect was stunning, and the moment when it finally 'clicked' and when JR, perfectly lined up now, vanished in the picture, so powerful that people spontaneously applauded. I looked around to see what the Taoist monk thought, but i think he was gone.
 

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