In the Gifu Prefecture of Japan, a nucleus of creativity blossomed in Kasahara Town, Tajimi City, more than a millennium ago. Known for its history of ceramic production, the region celebrates its distinctive heritage with a spring and autumn festival, a ceramics-themed park, and pottery shops that teach visitors the tradition. Among its newest attractions, set in a rolling green, the Mosaic Tile Museum Tajimi focuses on a more recent aspect of the ceramics industry.
Following World War II, reconstruction efforts required building materials, and tiles were suddenly in high demand. In its heyday in the mid-1900s, Kasahara Town had more than 100 tile factories, and the delicate pieces were still being used for the construction of high-rise buildings in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Soon, international competition and new materials hampered local manufacturing and the ornate tiles fell out of fashion, discarded when new buildings replaced earlier ones. Around that time, a group of locals who understood the historical significance of these tiles began to salvage as many as they could from structures scheduled for demolition. “The volunteers fondly recall how their requests were initially met with bewilderment, but their activities have resulted in the preservation of the extremely rare materials forming our enormous collection today,” says a statement on the museum’s website.
Housed in an architecturally exuberant expression of the relationship between ceramic and the earth, the building was designed by architect and historian Terunobu Fujimori to nestle sympathetically in the surrounding landscape. Today, the museum’s collection holds more than 10,000 individual tiles, sample books or boards portraying tile products, tools and utensils, and objects such as wash basins, bathtubs, and export goods.
You can find more information on the museum’s website.
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Lyon native Ememem, aka “the pavement surgeon,” examines the streets of European cities and checks for splintered pavement and sidewalks fractured in pieces. Using tiles and stones, he patches the gouged wounds with vibrant mosaics, which nestle into uniquely shaped outlines in walkways and walls. The street-based interventions brighten the otherwise gray asphalt and cement with radial patterns and color-coded stripes that the artist describes as a “free and spontaneous surgical act, which repairs as much as it beautifies.”
Since 2016, Ememem (previously) has restored hundreds of potholes and cracks in the streets across Norway, Scotland, Germany, and Spain, many of which he shares on Instagram. Some of his smaller works will be on view with ErbK Gallery from March 10 to 13 at Lille Art Up Fair, and this summer, he’ll travel to festivals in France, Italy, and Ireland and to Valparaiso and Santiago in September. Ememem is also launching a residency this fall for artists interested in learning his techniques.
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Dreamlike Sculptures by Christina Bothwell Meld Ceramic, Glass, and Oil Paint into Otherworldly Figures
From her Pennsylvania studio, Christina Bothwell (previously) sculpts surreal hybrid creatures and figures that occupy the unearthly space between dreams and wakefulness. She works with a combination of annealed glass, pit-fired ceramics, oil paint, and small mosaic tiles, which each correspond to a conceptual element. “I always come back to the idea that the physical part of us is just a small part of who we are in our entirety,” the artist tells Colossal. “The translucent parts of my pieces are meant to suggest the soul or that part of us that is more than just our bodies. The ceramic portions of my pieces represent our grounded, tangible parts.”
In her most recent body of work, Bothwell continues her explorations into the liminal and states of flux: a slumbering child appears to float from its sleeping counterpart in “Lucid Dream,” while another lies upside down in “Mood Swing.” Many of the sculptures are tinged with themes of magic, imagination, and escapism, which are reflected in the ways that human bodies meld with birds, monkeys, octopuses, and deer. She explains:
I was a sensitive child with eccentric parents who didn’t fit in. I didn’t even fit in with my family a lot of the time. It was like I was a changeling or an alien they were forced to live with. I felt like an outsider for most of my life, and it always felt precarious, unsafe, being who I was. For this reason, I think I identify with deer… despite their beauty and grace, they are not protected or valued (at least not where I live), and their vulnerability and innocence resonates with something deep within me.
Bothwell’s fantastical works will be on view at Habatat Gallery and Muskegon Museum of Art as part of the upcoming Beyond the Glass Ceiling, Influential Women in Glass exhibition and again this summer at Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee. Until then, explore more of her sculptures on Instagram.
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Spanning the 42 St. Connector between Times Square and Bryant Park in New York City is a troupe of dancing figures dressed in vibrant costumes of feather and fur. The ebullient characters are based on the iconic series of Soundsuits by Chicago-based artist Nick Cave (previously) and are the first part of a massive permanent installation titled Each One, Every One, Equal All in the public transit corridor.
Stretching 360 feet, “Every One” is the first in the mosaic trio and displays more than two dozen of the adorned figures inlaid in ceramic tiles. The pieces are based on James Prinz’s photos of Cave’s original designs, which are soulful and energetic forms that blend fashion, sculpture, and performance in full-body coverings. Soundsuits “camouflage the shape of the wearer, enveloping and creating a second skin that hides gender, race, and class, thus compelling the audience to watch without judgment.” Cave describes the impetus for the project.
Times Square is one of the busiest, most diverse, and fabulously kinetic places on the planet. For this project, I took the aboveground color, movement, and cross-pollination of humanity, bundled it into a powerful and compact energy mass that is taken underground and delivered throughout the station and passage. ‘Every One’ places the viewer within a performance, directly connecting them with the Soundsuits as part of an inclusive community of difference.
“Every One” was officially unveiled today with a short video work showing the colorful figures in motion playing every 15 minutes outside the corridor. “Each One” and “Equal All” are scheduled for 2022, and once complete, the project will stretch 4,600-square-feet with more than four dozen dancers. It will mark both Cave’s largest permanent installation and the MTA’s most expansive commissioned mosaic to date.
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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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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.