Having broken through the modern mosaic barrier at the Victoria and Albert Museum with a four-wheeled, two-ton protest against the death penalty, (Entering Through the Gift Shop: Carrie Reichardt’s “Tiki Love Truck” at the V&A” ), craftivist Carrie Reichardt was given the extraordinary opportunity to expand her role in the museum’s ground-breaking Disobedient Objects exhibit (July 25, 2014 – February 1, 2015) with a project that would transform the front of that venerable institution.
Asked by the V&A’s Director and Curators to create something “playful, provocative and sincere”, Reichardt designed a full-frontal installation comprising two panels and the risers of the steps leading up to the front doors of the museum.
It was a brilliant stroke by the V&A, really. Some exhibits are promoted with banners. Others with posters. With Reichardt’s mosaics, the Disobedient Objects exhibit literally spilled out of the galleries and onto the museum’s front steps. According to Curator Catherine Flood, the final visitor figures were 417,000 making Disobedient Objects the most visited exhibition at the V&A since “Britain Can Make It” in 1946.
While many of objects inside the exhibit were artifacts, The Disobedient Mosaic Intervention was artful political activism live.
The design of the two panels was a collaborative process that included the curators for Disobedient Objects, Gavin Grindon and Catherine Flood, each of whom selected a quote for one of the panels.
Reichardt’s use of digital transfers to create custom tiles for each of her mosaics is at the core of her activist aesthetic. She blends the profane and prosaic to enormous effect in these two panels. The British pound note with the visage of the Queen fills the visor of a baton-wielding riot policeman, surveillance cameras loom and England’s ubiquitous poppies bloom. At the bottom of each panel, a “groundswell” of protest from the people; at the top energy based on the conflict below radiates outward.
We love Reichardt’s idea to use the risers on the steps of the museum to display some of her favorite quotes. The format immediately calls to mind how ticker tapes and thin strips of paper attached to carrier pigeons were once used to transmit urgent news about disasters, conflicts and possibilities.
“Think for yourself – act for others” is what has driven Carrie Reichardt to take her message of art as empowerment to disenfranchised communities in Mexico, Chile, Romania and into the marginal neighborhoods of the UK. Kudos to the V&A for giving this artist and the Treatment Rooms Collective the opportunity to turn the facade of the museum into a modern day “Speakers Corner” as part of their Disobedient Objects exhibit.
Mosaic Intervention at the V&A (2014) Made by the Treatment Rooms Collective: Luke Allen, Gary Drostle, Mark Drostle, Eoghan Ebrill, Linda Griffiths, Gabrielle Harvey-Smith, Liam Heyhow, Peter Henham, Kevin O’Donohue, Carrie Reichardt, Thayen Rich, Sian Wonnish Smith, Cerdic Thomas, Liam Thomas, Karen Wydler, Mark Wydler.
Video of Reichard’s presentation on the Intervention at The British Association for Modern Mosaic’s 2015 Forum
- Previous stories about Carrie Reichardt on MAN
- Carrie Reichardt
- Disobedient Objects Exhibit (which will be traveling to Australia later this year)
Video walk-through of the Disobedient Objects Exhibit with Curator Gavin Grindon
- February 2016 interview by Rosie Osborne on Free Spirit Homes here
We were honored when the editors of Andamento, the journal of the British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM), asked us to write a comprehensive article covering the magnificent achievement of Isidora Paz Lopez and her team in creating the mosaic murals of Puente Alto, Chile. With over 30 photographs, the article covers the history, inspiration and methodology of the project as well as the impact the mosaics have had on the citizens of this suburb of Santiago. It is free for you to read right here.
You can read the article by clicking on the link above, but we strongly urge you to purchase a copy of the publication to see all of the Puente Alto illustrations and to get all of the great content the publication has to offer mosaic lovers. Additional articles include:
Dissolving Into Light: The Creative Journey of Elaine M. Goodwin – Elaine M. Goodwin talking to Ilona Jesnick about how the internationally recognized artist was inspired by working with Nek Chand and transformed by an experience in the Basilica of San Vitale. Illuminating.
Tygers Burning Bright – Gregory Edwards looks in depth at two mosaic cycles in London devoted to the work of the writer William Blake; the first a 1920s series by Boris Anrep (a personal favorite) and the second an undertaking of the artists and volunteers of the splendid Southbank Mosaics. Really great reading.
Hodie Mecum Eris In Paradiso – Victorian Arts and Crafts historian Neil Moat has made a marvelous discovery; the origins of the decorative motifs later to be associated with Continental Art Nouveau in the mosaics by Messrs. Rust & Co’s mosaics at St. George’s Church. Fascinating history and beautiful photos.
This issue of Andamento is truly wonderful. Now, go buy one!
In May of this year, the Washington DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities unveiled what one art lover has described as “the most beautiful mosaic in the city” in the Takoma Metro Rail Station.
Sam Gilliam (b. November 30, 1933) is internationally recognized as one of America’s foremost Color Field Painter and Lyrical Abstractionist artists. Gilliam, an African American, is associated with the Washington Color School and is broadly considered a Color field painter. His works have also been described as belonging to Abstract Expressionism and Lyrical Abstraction. He works on stretched, draped, and wrapped canvas, and adds sculptural 3D elements. He is recognized as the first artist to introduce the idea of a painted canvas hanging without stretcher bars c.1965, a major contribution to the Color Field School. – Wikipedia
In the video of dedication ceremonies below, Gilliam speaks about his inspiration for the work while citizens talk about the mural’s impact in bringing the Takoma Park and Washington DC communities closer together. What more could one ask of public art?
Recently, MAN spoke with Gilliam’s assistant of 30 years, Stephen Frietch and mosaic artisan Stephen Miotto, the man responsible for the making of From a Model to a Rainbow and many of the extraordinary mosaics found in the NY subways. Quite honestly, the enthusiasm for the project expressed by both of these men is difficult for us to convey here.
Luckily, we found this PBS video on the project where you can see/feel that enthusiasm. Listen for comments from Gilliam like “as if it’s actually flapping out of doors” and “these colors have the feeling that they are in water”– testaments to the artistry of the mosaicists who worked from his original computer generated image.
In our interview, Frietch said, “The mosaic is like a translation. They (the mosaicists) took unexpected liberties. We learned to trust them.” Miotto, based New York, provided us with the following photos of the mosaic’s creation in the Travisanutto Studio in Italy.
Gilliam’s original design was extraordinarily complex; colors shifted, melded and draped from one shape and plane to another. In the studio photo above, one can appreciate how the artisans achieved that complexity with astonishing accuracy using the mosaic components of color, texture and andamento. There isn’t a curved tesserae to be found and yet the completed work exudes fluidity.
Gilliam and Frietch spent time in the Travisanutto Studio with Miotto during the execution of the mosaic. Said Frietch, “There you are at the foot of the Dolomite mountains with your seventeen year old son watching the master (Giovanni Travisanutto), a 70 or 80 year old man make art the same way it has been made for thousands of years . . . it just doesn’t get any better.”
No, it doesn’t.
Says Miotto: You can’t copy a work of art (in mosaic). You have to recreate it in a way that is honest to what the artist wants.
And that would be the difference between simple fabrication and making art.
Our sincere thanks to Sam Gilliam, Stephen Frietch and Stephen Miotto for their assistance with this post. We could have gone on for days.
Enjoy – Nancie
Takoma Metro Rail Station, 327 Cedar Street NW, Washington DC
Recent works by Sam Gilliam Marsha Mateyka Gallery
Miotto Mosaics, Stephen Miotto: Tel. 845.628.8496 Fax. 845.628.1845
Website for Travisanutto Studio
More photos by Richard Holzager of the mural and its installation at TacomaDC
Previous MAN Posts on Stephen Miotto:
Stephen Miotto Interviewed in His Studio, here
Community Garden: An Award Winning Mosaic by Stephen Miotto here