Jim Bachor travels across the country filling potholes for a living. He doesn’t just fill the unsightly road gaps with cement, he actually turns them into art — and often, social commentary. Bachor uses hundreds of pieces of Italian glass and marble that he cuts to create the sometimes subversive mosaics, which he installs on the ground to beautify unsightly city streets. He doesn’t work with cities on the installations, he works rogue, and he places the mosaics himself.
Check out these fairy doors in Virginia. Hard to find but surrounded by mosaics and greenery.
This from Atlas Obscura -
In the early 20th century, Tel Aviv had a distinguished industry of beautiful decorated tiles, which can still be seen in some private homes, apartments, stairwells, and public buildings. After peaking in the 1920s, the tiles have become more and more scarce over the decades. Now, there’s a renewed appreciation for them.
Between 1921 and 1925, Tel Aviv’s population went from 2,000 to 34,000. The new city’s architects were European Jews who trained in art schools in Eastern and Western Europe. Their building style came to be known as Eclectic. Architect Professor Nitza Szmuk, the guru of historical building conservation in Israel, says Eclectic architecture represented “the attempt to create a synthesis between East and West, thereby generating a local notional style.” The architects’ perception of Palestine and the Near East remained Orientalist, even when walking in the Tel Aviv sunshine or buying a tomato at the local grocer. The tiles in their buildings were part of this European Oriental fantasy. In the words of Architect Yossi Klein in a Domus magazine article, “the contrast between ‘the Oriental style’ and the European building technique allowed Zionists to return to a ‘sterile Orient,’ while maintaining European modes of living.”
“This was the golden age of the painted tile,” says Avi Levi, a landscape architect and hunter of derelict buildings and decorated tiles. “They became a local fixture and the connection to the European origins was forgotten.” The decorated tiles prevailed during the early 20th century in houses in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. They were found in luxurious villas and humble apartments. However, “after three decades, people started to think of the tiles as old-fashioned, expensive and excessive.” Ultimately, “this style flourished only for a short time,” Klein writes, “and as the conflict with the Arab community escalated, Modernist tendencies prevailed.” The romantic, Eclectic style gave way to the clean, modernist Bauhaus. Decorated tiles were abandoned in favor of simple, cheap, industrial tiles. As a result, most of the factories have closed. But at the end of Herzl Street, a street of woodworkers and craftsmen in southern Tel Aviv, the small tile factory of the Gluska family is operating to this day.
This from AtlasObscura:
Yossi Lugasi was tired during the final months of his life. He had a hard time getting out of bed, moving or eating. His wife, Yaffa, begged him to finish the portrait of Donald Trump he started working on when he was still feeling better. Lugasi would get up, drag himself to his work table, glue some orange, pink and yellow mosaic pieces to a net, and go back to bed.
Lugasi passed away a year ago. The small mosaic portrait of Trump hangs in a discreet corner of the living room in his apartment, in the Israeli port city of Jaffa. It is hidden among hundreds of such portraits, mostly of Zionist leaders, Jewish historical figures, and Israeli pop culture icons. The portraits cover the walls, doors, door frames and floors of the humble housing project apartment. They spill out onto the roof: artists and actors, prime ministers, presidents and philosophers, Holocaust martyrs, war heroes, members of failed American peace conferences, and the spy Eli Cohen, portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen in the Netflix series The Spy. The portraits hang on walls on the roof, overlooking the Jaffa projects, blending into a landscape of solar water heaters and clothes lines. Over four decades, Lugasi—who left school during the 5th grade, was barely literate and never studied art formally—created no less than 1,090 mosaics.
Lugasi was born in Morocco in 1949, to a family of eight siblings. In 1954, during the great immigration of Jews from Islamic countries to Israel, his family arrived at a tent camp for recent immigrants in the Beit She’an Valley. His mother Aliyah worked as a seamstress, and his father Eliyahu painted houses. Lugasi’s workroom features a murky oil painting of a hill covered with tents. At the front of the painting a woman sits on a pile of suitcases, watching children playing in the mud.
When he turned 13, as a bar mitzvah present, he went to visit his friends from the absorption camp back in the 1950s. The friends had moved to the poor ‘“development town” of Beit She’an. The camp was razed, and beneath it were found the remains of the grand Roman and Byzantine city Scythopolis and its many mosaics. As an adult, when he couldn’t find a place to store drawings that were vulnerable to the rain and sun, Lugasi chose as his medium the eternal mosaic, which, like in Scythopolis, never peels or fades.
Today, impossible meetings occur on Lugasi’s roof, under the strong Jaffa sun: Ben Gurion is watching Clinton and Elvis is staring at Itzhak Rabin. One could expect Lugasi to reject those people, the representatives of an establishment that marginalized him. Avi says his father did the exact opposite: He built a shrine to them, and so reclaimed power. “His creation,” Avi says, “complements his life story.”
Atlas Obscura has found a great example of mosaics in Mexico City.
Originally opened in 1956, the library building is most evidently the work of artist Juan O’Gorman. Though the building’s architecture is blocky, windowless, and monolithic, the artist created colorful designs that cover the entire surface of all four sides. The designs were inspired by a quartet of historical epochs, with the north wall representing the pre-Hispanic period; the south wall, the colonial period; the east wall, the modern era; and the west wall, the university’s history.
The colorful decorations turn what could have been an imposing institutional block into a vibrant attraction that’s both a piece of history and a piece of art. And again, thanks to a little block jutting up from the roof like a handle, combined with the circular depictions of the Ptolemaic and Copernican visions of the universe, it really looks like a massive boombox built by an ancient civilization.
And the decorations get even more incredible up close, as they aren’t simply painted onto the walls, but composed of designs illustrated with a variety of types of local stone, each chosen for its natural color. Amazingly, all of the reds, greens, blues, yellows, and other colors are created with naturally colored stones from across Mexico. O’Gorman chose this method because as opposed to paint and other mediums, the stones wouldn’t fade.
The UNAM Central Library is an incredible building that manages to encapsulate the country’s rich history with a kind of symbolic visual poetry, writ large. It almost has to be seen to be believed. But seriously, you guys see how it looks like a boombox, right?
Jo Atherton’s colorful works turn our plastic crisis into a meditation on memory and time.
Jo Atherton’s tapestries can’t be ignored. They’re filled with texture, movement, and color. When placed on the blank walls of galleries, they’re like fishing lures for the eye: visitors will spot them from across the room and hone on in.
“Often, people are drawn to them,” says Atherton. “They don’t quite know what they’re looking at … It’s only when they get up close that they have that shock moment of, ‘Oh my God, it’s rubbish!’”
This is not a judgement. Atherton, a freelance artist based in Bedfordshire, England, literally makes art from garbage. Some of it is old garbage—pieces of pottery and glass from ancient Rome, lent gravitas by the passage of time. Some of it is slightly more recent, like the nests of rope, fishing net, and colorful plastic doo-dads that make up those sneaky tapestries, which she calls “Flotsam Weaving.” She finds all of her materials herself, in the depths of the Thames and along the low-tide lines on Cornwall’s beaches.
Atherton prefers to beachcomb in Cornwall, on the U.K.’s southwest coast. “A lot of material washes up in the winter because of the Gulf Stream,” she says, and she and other seekers pick up stuff from all corners of the Atlantic: the West Indies; the Eastern seaboard; Nova Scotia. Atherton describes the tideline as “a story,” and scavenging along it as “an act of reading.”
Often, she must imagine the characters that populate the resulting tales: What kid played with this plastic soldier? Who disobeyed their parents and released this now-popped balloon? But sometimes, the real ones make themselves known—as when she found a fisherman’s tag that had floated to Cornwall after detaching from a lobster buoy in Maine. “I thought, ‘I’ll type his name into Facebook and see if I can find him,’” she says. “And sure enough, I could.” Later, they talked on the phone, and realized they share a birth year, 1979.
Experiences like this inspired her Flotsam Weaving series, which she says is about “the threads of stories … [and] the similarity between text and textile.” More recently, she has been exploring other media, including printing and cyanotype. For these works, she arranges tiny bits of plastic in repeating, often circular patterns. Silhouetted and abstracted by ink or photochemicals, they look like plankton viewed through a microscope. “Prehistoric plankton settled onto the ocean floor and slowly turned into oil,” she says. “That’s now what we’re making our plastic from … the prints are a way of getting people thinking about these deep-time connections.”
You can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art right now and see a small selection of Joseph Cornell boxes or you can go to 21 Ludlow Street in NYC's Chinatown to see a much more interesting array of boxes by Margot Niederland.
She explains, "I began creating assemblages as a counterbalance to my many years of photographing and filming. As a photographer and documentarian, I go into the world and capture reality. I put a frame around what I see and create an expression of what already exists. Alternatively, my assemblages are tableaux of miniature worlds. They are created from my subconscious rather than from any pre-conceived ideas. I work with a ‘palette’ of hundreds of found objects I’ve collected over the years. After choosing the first piece to become an axis for the work, I juxtapose other pieces with synergistic associations. As the montages coalesce into milieus, the individual pieces transform into symbolic metaphors, creating scenes from an unknown movie. These assemblages are open to interpretation, inviting the viewer to enter and participate in their own creation of a dream narrative."
Her work is on exhibit (and on sale) until March 25, 2018.
Pixel is an artist from Santiago, Chile, who started his design career when it was still hard to think that visual design will evolve towards technologies, as it prevails today. Today, the use of technology is not only an obligation, but a responsibility, as it allows us to record our history and improve our design and artistic tools.
In Paris, he learned firsthand of the work of Space Invader who inspired him to research pixel and mosaic techniques. Subsequently, he studied the religious and decorative mosaics of Mesopotamia, Greece and Byzantium. He began to explore the use of the pixel to create simplified images that synthesized color and form to its limit. Now, he has reached a cohesion between photography, mosaic, and dominant technological tools to create his own signature technique.
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!
Reclining by a wine jug and a portion of bread, a cup in one bony hand, the skeleton on a 3rd-century mosaic discovered in Turkey has a simple message for its viewers: “Be cheerful, enjoy your life.” The words in ancient Greek frame its skull and were revealed in a recent excavation in the ancient city of Antioch, located near today’s Syrian border.
According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, the mosaic was found in 2012, but was shared by the agency last week. The Daily Sabah reports that excavations were launched in the area when construction began on a new cable car. The bacchanalian skeleton is part of a group of mosaics discovered on what’s believed to be a dining room floor. One directly beside the skeleton shows a man racing towards a sundial, another reminder of the passage of time.
It’s also not the only ancient mosaic to contain a corpse in the carpe diem spirit. Another similarly lounging but oddly fleshy skeleton was found along Rome’s Via Appia and is now part of the Museo Nazionale Romano. And two separate mosaics discovered at Pompeii feature, respectively, a skeleton standing with two wine pitchers and a skull balancing on a wheel between symbols of wealth and poverty, suggesting that death is the “great leveler.” While they might appear grim, their meaning was much more about celebrating life in the face of death than pondering that shared mortal fate.
Travel to Havana and see the most amazing mosaic neighborhood by the artist Fuster. Fusterlandia is the studio, residence and wild kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster. Geographically we are in Jaimanitas, at the northwestern edge of the Cuban capital, but Jaimanitas has changed a lot since Fuster (as everyone here calls him) got to town 30 years ago and set about remaking the neighbourhood in his own image.
"When I got here my house was in wood, small," Fuster recalls. "So I decided to do something about it. I started building my dream." He had visited Europe and had came back to Cuba with plenty of inspiration. He had seen Gaudi in Barcelona and Brancusi in Romania. "It seemed impossible to me to do anything like that in Cuba. But all dreams get realised over time."
While Fuster's art can't really be described as groundbreaking (his visual language owes a heavy debt to Picasso and Jean Dubuffet), he has certainly covered a lot of ground with it. Roofs, walls, doorways and benches, stretching for blocks around the epicentre of his studio enclave, are adorned with his brightly coloured sculptures and mosaics : mermaids, fish, palm trees,roosters and Santería saints; quotations from Alejo Carpentier, Onelio Jorge Cardoso, and Ernest Hemingway. More than 80 neighbours have allowed Fuster to use their homes as his canvas.