By George Tibbett, curator
Perhaps even more exciting than the opening of the anxiously anticipated extension of the Q subway line along 2nd Avenue in Manhattan was the mosaic art in each new station. Many NYC subway stations have some mosaics but these new stations bring it to a new artistic level with artwork by Sarah Sze, Chuck Close and Vik Muniz all translated into large mosaics.
So will this push the art of mosaics into greater acceptance in the established art world? Mosaics as with ceramics, has long been relegated to crafts rather than fine art. But this may be changing. Established ceramicists, such as Betty Woodman, have had solo shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Emerging ceramicists like Lulu Yee have been the toast of Bushwick Open Studios. So as go ceramics, so go mosaics?
Mosaics should mean more than just a jigsaw puzzle of pieces that form an image. Great mosaic art should expand the range of the medium. Here is a list of the top five ground-breaking mosaic artists working today:
Jorge Campos aka Pixel
Pixel, is a Santiago street artist whose mosaic work pixelates cultural heroes such as Nicanor Parra, artists such as Van Gogh, and iconic artwork like from Roy Lichtenstein. Pixel brings his mosaics to the streets where his work blends with other forms of street art for people to enjoy on the streets of Santiago. According to MosaicArtNow, Pixel explains the relationship of his art with the public. He says, “At first, people think they are facing a painting. Approaching and touching, they realize they are in fact facing a mosaic. Then, they wonder if it was really hand made. They also play with distance to appreciate the work in detail, take photos, and when the image is revealed perfect and detailed on the small screens of their smartphones, they fall for it!”
Using a range of different materials, King’s mosaics are complex compilations that, as her website states, stimulate the imagination. Some of her work is described as coded messages. She asserts, “These mosaics explore the dynamic tension created when familiar organic shapes can be seen as both macro and micro visions of our landscape. Shapes that are simultaneously at rest and moving, pulling the tesserae together into a complex composition while exploring the interaction of each element and the mystery of the spaces between.”
Weisler describes herself as an urban artist with an interest in decaying and discarded objects. First starting in photography, Weisler was captivated by decaying, peeling and eroding street art. From there, she gravitated to collecting and assembling discarded and broken objects to not only capture their inherent beauty and mystery but also to create new mosaic images. She explains, “My mosaics are often unplanned and are created organically as the pieces come together to tell their story. A broken mug, a piece of shattered plate or a discarded misshapen object are all important elements in my work.”
Isaiah Zagar might be best known for one of his greatest achievements – The Magic Garden in Philadelphia, which is essentially a full house and side yard of compiled mosaic art. As described by Lonely Planet, “Think of all the things you have thrown away this week – an old shoe, a broken mirror, a loose button, an empty bottle of wine. Then picture all of it broken apart, artfully cobbled together with quirky objects like antique tiles and hand-carved Mexican dolls, and applied to a wall with cement, clay, paint and glue to form a gloriously colorful mural. This is the work of septuagenarian Philadelphia-born Isaiah Zagar: mosaic artist, world traveler, visionary, dumpster diver.”
Better known as a painter, Zapata had a chance encounter when he walked into Koko Mosaico in Ravenna, Italy. It was there that he saw the potential of mosaics to translate his paintings into formative artwork. “With these pieces, I wanted to create great contrast and pay tribute to the history of art. I find taking a painting done in graffiti and recreating it using these ancient techniques helps me to understand the contemporary moment. These works represent to me where we have been and where we are going – they derive their strength from this duality,” he states on MosaicArtNow.
İnci Eviner is a gatherer: she collects the memory of crowds, unearths folk narratives, and retells their stories in her own language. She is a hunter: she traces misogyny, detects hierarchy, and targets it with the tools of a unique feminist visual lexicon. Although she doesn’t specifically identify her work as feminist, Eviner dissolves dichotomies and prescribed identities using the female body—but just as often, ungendered bodies—as an agent through which womanhood, gender, and the politics of identity are performed.
To understand Eviner’s art, which spans nearly every conceivable medium, one needs to break the mindset of a western linear understanding. The tales in her works mushroom in different terrains, hatching into a rhizome. As in Deleuze and Guattari’s model of the rhizome, which opposes a hierarchical, tree-like model of culture and thought, Eviner’s work rejects a continuous, unbroken, orthodox perception of the world. Unlike the tree that sprouts from a single seed, branching out from a stable trunk, the rhizome is a root-like organism that spreads and grows horizontally, making diverse, but not necessarily continuous connections and appearances.
Laura Lappi works in a wide range of media including installation, sculpture, photography and video. Her work crosses the boundaries between our perception of space and time and between reality and fiction. She is interested in creating bewilderment, uncertainty, unexpected situations and mystery by shifting the form of space and the viewer’s point of view. Emotions such as loneliness and yearning are important concepts within her work.
Lappi's work has been exhibited widely in solo and group shows in Europe, US and Asia including AC Institute in New York, Galleri Vest in Reykjavik, Galleri Uusi Kipinä in Lahti, Gallery Titanik in Turku, Kunstpodium T in Tilburg, Gramercy Gallery in New York, Fotogalerie in Rotterdam, Re:Rotterdam International Art Fair in Rotterdam, Twente Biennale 2013 in Enschede, Supermarket Art Fair in Stockholm, Access Art in New York and Green Papaya Art Projects in Manila. She has received grants from the Finnish Cultural Foundation, FRAME (Finnish Fund for Art Exchange) and the Arts Council of Finland.
Laura Lappi lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and Asikkala, Finland.
Hannelore Baron was a self taught artist whose work has become known for the highly personal, book-sized, abstract textile based collages and box constructions that she began exhibiting in the late 1960s. Although her compositions are completely abstract, she considered them to be both personal and political statements. In her own words,
Everything I’ve done is a statement on the, as they say, human condition...the way other people march to Washington, or set themselves on fire, or write protest letters, or go to assassinate someone. Well, I’ve had all the same feelings that these people had about various things, and my way out, because of my inability to do anything else for various reasons, has been to make the protest through my artwork... H.B.
Born in Dillingen/Saar, Germany, she and her family fled persecution in Nazi Germany, illegally crossing the border into Luxembourg in 1939. In 1941 Baron's family sailed from Lisbon to New York and settled in the Bronx, New York City. By the time she graduated from the Staubenmiller Textile High School in Manhattan, Baron was avidly reading eastern philosophy, making increasingly abstract paintings and probably already experiencing the symptoms of claustrophobia and depression that would lead to a series of nervous breakdowns throughout her life. In the late 1950s Baron combined a variety of techniques and began making her first collages. Occupied with raising two children (daughter Julie and son Mark) and beset by psychological problems, Hannelore nevertheless exhibited her work and in 1969, the year of her one-person exhibition at Ulster County Community College, she began to make the box constructions that would become her signature. In the early 1970s, Baron established a studio and devoted her time and energy completely to her artwork until her death in 1987.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s her work garnered critical acclaim, along with gallery and museum exhibitions in the United States, Europe and Japan. In 1995, her work was the subject of a one-person exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 2001 her work was the subject of a traveling exhibition curated by Ingrid Schaffner and organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Her works can be found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, and Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Naomi Yasuda creates mesmerizing nail designs that use color as a starting point. She often tops these tiny paintings with beads and ornaments, transforming nails from flat canvases into sculptural works of art. She grew up watching her grandmother, a kimono tailor, make garments from intricately patterned fabrics. The designs shown here, created for Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, are inspired by those traditional Japanese patterns.
Artists take risks in their materials but Nadia Martinez and her work with computer parts must deal with a larger array of potentially unhealthy materials. And yet, her sculptures, constructed with these discarded parts hold a certain poignancy and presence. She says, "El Bosque de Qualtron (Qualtron’s forest). - Qualtron was the name of a computer parts manufacturing company that went bankrupt after 20 years in business. I found an inherent beauty in the abandoned parts and created a forest out of the 100% man-made materials giving them a second life. Every sculpture represents something from nature, an animal, a tree, water, etc. or a memories from Honduras."
Nadia Martinez works in a variety of mediums, with her work reflecting on daily encounters and experiences that are often difficult to express in words. Martinez strives to make statements that are positive and uplifting and draws from her background in architecture to explore the interaction between humans and nature and the qualities that shape our faith and values today.
At MAD, Martinez will use computer parts to create sculptures and jewelry that respond to the inherent beauty in abandoned materials by giving them “second lives.” She uses assemblage techniques, along with mold making and casting methods. Martinez is also interested in visitor response, namely, visitors’ reactions to her work and how their insights and thoughts can inform her process.
Martinez studied architecture at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras and received a certificate in fine arts and a diploma from the National Academy School of Fine Arts, NY. Martinez exhibits in New York and internationally. For more information please visit her website: www.nadiamartinez.com.
Matt Lipps’ work combines elements of collage, constructed still life, and appropriated imagery, into a wholly new and original form.
His recent work “Library” is based on images from Time-Life’s 1970s seventeen volume set of books called “Library of Photography”, Lipps cuts out and assembles selected images into groups that echo the themes of the different volumes – Photographing Children, The Camera, Travel Photography, Special Problems, etc.. Mounted and arranged on shelves in front of vivid color backgrounds, the figures become players in a story that is both a tribute to the heyday of analog photography and an accomplished vision of the possibilities that the digital age has opened up to artists.
The colorful backgrounds of the series come from 35mm photographs taken by Lipps when he was a student and their warm emotional color and abstract feeling contrasts dramatically with the coolly objective black and white figures and forms selected by Lipps from the “Library” books.
Combining authored and appropriated photographs Lipps sets up a tension between the subjective and objective uses of the medium offering both an intriguing and fresh perspective on the history of the medium and history itself.
Matt Lipps received his MFA from the University of California, Irvine. Most recently his work has been shown at the Saatchi Gallery, FOAM (Foto Museum of Amsterdam), and is currently on view at Pier 24 in San Francisco. His work is in the collection of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, The Pilara Foundation/Pier 24. He is Assistant Professor of Art at San Francisco State University. Lipp's work can currently also be seen at Art in General and in the group show "Under Construction - New Positions in American Photography" at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn.
Edith Schloss was the consummate insider/outsider of the New York School. One of the few female members of the Club — the historic, testosterone-fueled den of the Abstract Expressionists — Schloss knew everyone who was anyone during the 20-year cultural ferment in postwar New York. And then, in 1962, she left for a three-week visit to Rome and stayed there until her death at 92 in 2011.
Schloss was born in 1919 in Offenbach, Germany. Her family escaped to England after Kristallnacht, and she eventually found her way to New York, where she studied at the Art Students League while working at menial jobs to support herself. Within a year or two she had become part of the circle revolving around the painter and writer Fairfield Porter, the painters Elaine and William de Kooning, the poet and critic Edwin Denby and the filmmaker and painter Rudy Burckhardt.
Never wedded to a single approach, Schloss’s paintings proceed from an entrancing combination of observation, imagination and material experimentation. There is a try-anything spirit effervescing from them, a spirit first manifested in the early 1950s when she turned to assemblage — a striking departure from her early watercolors and oils, which, aside from one remarkable abstraction, “Games” (1947), and a painting of the young Jacob grabbing a hard-boiled egg from a well-laid breakfast table (“Egg Eater,” 1950), depict whimsically rendered landscapes and still lifes.
The hard materiality of assemblage (one of the pieces on display, made around 1953, is subtitled “Homage to Joseph Cornell,” whom she and Burckhardt visited at his Utopia Parkway home in Flushing, Queens) may have endowed Schloss’s later paintings — beginning with the breakthrough works she made after she settled in Rome — with a newfound sense of the physical. These uncommonly alive paintings, freewheeling in design and exploding with color, delight in the disparities among the hard and viscous textures of paint, the specificity of the scrawled line, and the cool, smooth field of an empty, or nearly empty, canvas.
In the last twenty years of her life, Schloss turned to mythology as a subject, not as a sign of aesthetic retreat (see Pablo Picasso and Giorgio de Chirico), but as an explosion of unbridled libido, dominated by swatches and splats of high-key, often contrasting color, with untethered lines and strokes floating across fields of blue, green and orange.
Whether one categorizes Michael Mapes as a mosaic artist, assemblage artist or reconstructionist, what remains when viewing his work is his sense of artistic destiny created from smalll shards, detritis, bit of photographs and other assorted found items.
His latest series of work is inspired by Dutch Master portraiture. In a method consistent with earlier work, subjects are examined through a pseudo scientific method specifically working with materials and processes signifying entomological, biological and forensic science.
"My work suggests the meta-relationship of the subject content, which is to say, it creates a dimensional collage of a painting of a person. In doing so, I consider ways in which to reconstruct the original subject to suggest new meanings. Along with thousands of dissected photos of the original painting, I add a mix of other contrived materials ranging from hair samples to recent photos to costume jewelry. The finished “collections” become dimensional collages within the realm of contemporary portraiture of 17th century subjects."
The result is grand art based on microscopic elements.