At the heart of Matt Small’s practice is the idea that “there’s always potential within everything.” The British artist gravitates toward an overarching theme of disregard in both subject matter and material, choosing oxidized hunks of iron, bits of patinaed copper, and crinkled aluminum strips that have been relegated to the trash to construct his metallic portraits.
Expressive and emotionally charged, the corroded mosaics link rampant overconsumption and widespread tendencies to throw away what’s deemed obsolete or undesirable to the ways adolescents are marginalized and subsequently not seen as viable members of society. “Because of the social backgrounds they come from, young people find themselves overlooked, disregarded, and left uninvested in,” the artist says. “Marrying the discarded item and painting a portrait of a young person on it or utilizing the material to construct a mosaic face, I hope that the viewer sees that everybody and everything has a right to be viewed as valuable and of worth. It’s just up to us to see that.”
In a conversation with Colossal, Small references Marcel Duchamp’s urinal and the way that readymade sculpture upended long-standing notions of worth as a foundational concept he draws on his own practice. By turning debris and seemingly useless materials into works of significance, he hopes to prompt questions about the arbitrary values assigned to objects and people alike, explaining:
The scrap metal has worth because of what I did with it, not because I say it is of worth. The rusted tin can becomes a tone in the face. The shiny metal brings out a highlight on the forehead. All these worthless items have been incorporated into something that someone may now appreciate, and the potential of this scrap item can now be realized.
Small, who lives in his hometown of Camden, currently has work on view as part of Vanguard, which is considering the role of Bristol-area artists who’ve had an outsized impact on British street art since the 1980s. The extensive exhibition, which includes memorabilia and dozens of originals works, is open at M Shed through October 31. If you’re in London, watch for a large-scale mural portrait of the young British entrepreneur Jamal Edwards that Small is working on in Acton, and follow the artist on Instagram to stay up to date with his latest projects.
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Throughout his home city of Lyon, Ememem is known as “the pavement surgeon.” The artist repairs gouged sidewalks and splintered facades with colorful mosaics that he describes as “a poem that everybody can read.” Intricate geometric motifs laid with pristine tiles hug the cracks and create “a memory notebook of the city. It reveals what happened, the life in these public places,” he tells Colossal. “Here cobblestones have been picked up and thrown. There a truck from the vegetable market tore off a piece of asphalt…”
Ememem’s first mosaic dates back 10 years when he found himself in a damaged alley in Lyon. At that time, he already was working in ceramic and translated that practice to revitalizing the outdoor area. Since 2016, he’s been consistently filling potholes and other divots throughout France. “It’s a succession of a lot of places and reflections, experiments I did before. I had done similar things, with other techniques, other supports, and finally, when this one emerged, I knew I found something that I was going to keep doing for the rest of my life,” he says.
If you’re in Paris, you can see some of Ememem’s newest interventions around the Grand Paris Express in Saint-Maur-Créteil through August 31. His work also will be at Spraying Board in Lyon on June 2 and included in a group show at Florian Daguet-Bresson opening June 8. You can find an extensive archive of his patched projects on his site and Instagram. Check out these guerilla pothole mosaics by Chicago artist Jim Bachor for similar street mendings. (via Jeroen Apers)
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An Artistic Endeavor in Brussels Installs Custom Mosaics Outside Your Home—People Are Choosing Portraits of Their Cats
Cats, dogs, and other mammals are known to mark their territories in myriad ways, but pet owners in Brussels have discovered a more enduring and inviting method. What began as a single project by artist Ingrid Schreyers spurred a municipality-wide initiative: the government of Schaerbeek, a suburb bordering the city of Brussels, now installs any mosaic, either created by residents or a local artist like Whitney Orville, free of charge. Many people are choosing portraits of their furry companions, although the idiosyncratic designs range from playful depictions of wildlife to urban scenes.
We’ve gathered some of the street-side assemblages here, but check out this Instagram account documenting the public art initiative for hundreds more. You also might enjoy these Japanese manhole covers and a similar mosaic-centered initiative to fill potholes.
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Archaeologists made an extraordinary discovery this week when they uncovered a pristine mosaic that’s been hidden underneath feet of soil since the 3rd century. Situated in a private vineyard in the town of Negrar di Valpolicella, the tile flooring is believed to be part of an ancient Domus, the style of home owned by wealthy residents. Since October of 2019, excavators have been working to outline the building’s perimeters and dig for notable artifacts. Town officials say they’re working to make the discovery available to the public as more is exposed.
Locals have thought the vineyard contained Roman ruins since at least the 19th century, and archaeologists have unearthed similar mosaics since the 1960s. The site is near Verona, which boasts many of the civilization’s ruins, like the Piazza delle Erbe, Arena, and Piazza Bra, is believed to contain more hidden artifacts, architecture, and infrastructure underneath its soil. (via The History Blog)
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One Chicago driver got a little too excited about Jim Bachor’s recent tribute to one of humanity’s preferred coping mechanisms. In a COVD-19 themed series, the Chicago-based artist (previously) installed four mosaic potholes on the city’s northeast side, except an anxious motorist drove over the can of Old Style before it was dry. Despite its partial damage, the rest of the cemented works feature the newly iconic roll of toilet paper and bottle of hand sanitizer. A red star from Chicago’s flag fills the fourth as a nod to the local community.
Bachor tells Colossal that since he began his public projects in 2013, he’s realized that the blacktop holes are quite unifying. “Everyone hates potholes—rich, poor, young, old, tall, young. (It) doesn’t matter.” Despite his proactive measures to fix the clunky holes in cities like New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles, Bachor calls them an “unsolvable problem…. I actually have empathy for (the) city government. It’s a no-win situation. Folks assume my work is a bit of a political statement about getting on the city to fix them but it really isn’t.” This is Bachor’s first installation completed on a single street.
The tiled pieces currently make up a small portion of the artist’s overall creative work, although he has plans for additional series and appreciates that their accessibility. “The pothole art campaign also keeps me connected with people that like my work but might not be able to afford an original or print. And like a billboard, they work 24/7,” he says. Bachor also notes that there’s a connection between affluent neighborhoods and well-kept roads. “I’ve had funny concepts for nicer parts of the city but found it impossible to find potholes to do them,” the artist writes.
You can find more of Bachor’s civically-minded work on Instagram, and check out the prints and wearables available in his shop. You might also like these humorous “Coronavirus Tourism” posters and a game of Pandemic Lotería. (via Block Club Chicago)
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In “Greetings from Venice, Italian artist Elisabetta Di Maggio used thousands of stamps to create colorful mosaics on the floor of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Di Maggio created repeating geometric patterns with the varied designs, shapes, and color palettes of each miniature government-commissioned artwork. The paper mosaics were placed below a transparent floating floor, allowing visitors to walk over the artwork, located on the fourth floor of the historic building, which has been repurposed as a contemporary shopping destination.
To create the elaborate repeated patterns, Di Maggio studied St. Mark’s Basilica’s floor and Venetian palazzi and sorted 100,000 stamps by color to prepare the designs. The artist then worked with a team of high school students to arrange the stamps in complex patterns. “Greetings from Venice” was on view in autumn 2018.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.