Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bricolage With Disparate Elements

Yesterday April Nomellini, a member of Fused Chicago, and one of the people who has signed up for the post-con workshop, sent me some links to murals that have been installed on the walls of underpasses in Chicago.  They are referred to in the Chicago newspaper items about them as "Bricolage Murals." They are large-scale tile mosaics (more than 100 feet long) with some 3-D sculptural inserts, some painted parts, some photo reproductions on tiles, cut mirror insertions and so on. The mosaic is mostly composed of smashed tiles that are cemented onto the concrete walls of the overpass and then grouted with various grout colors to emphasize the design. The murals are designed by artists and installed by volunteer community groups, including teenagers.

A Chicago public mural called "Indian Land Dancing" is a tribute to Native Americans in the area and includes some of their cultural symbols.

I read several of the articles about the murals trying to understand why they were calling them "bricolage" because there were no found objects used and all the parts were tile or tile-like. Finally I came across a website that explains how to work with community groups to design and install mosaic murals. Here I finally saw why this style of mural is called "bricolage:"

Recently, Chicago Public Art Group artists inspired by folk art practices and a visit to Isaiah Zagar, a master of direct mosaics in Philadelphia, have been experimenting with loose, more freely drawn mosaic works combining various kinds of tiles and hand painted ceramic pieces. Working in this way, tiles are broken and placed into buckets. Tiles are not cut or carefully fit. Adhesive is applied to the tile as it is taken from the bucket and attached to the wall. Participants outline and fill large, simple areas. After covering areas with large tile pieces, small tile fragments are filled into gaps between tiles.

Chicago Public Art Group is referring to these as Bricolage Mosaics, using the French word that designates making something out of many disparate elements.

Here you can see the variety of tile shapes that are used and how the various areas are separated by different colors of grout.

Some of the tiles are hand-painted right in place by artists who are part of the design team

This was a great community effort and really adds to a colorful cityscape.

Here are the links that April sent me that connect to newspaper articles:

Disparate Elements in Encaustic
Not to confuse the issue, but if we take the definition of bricolage to mean something made out of  many disparate elements, then perhaps we could include the sculptural work of Laura Moriarty as a form of bricolage. In other words, she is making her own found or invented elements and combining them to make new works.

Laura Moriarty "Uplift." This work is made entirely from encaustic that is applied in layers to a surface, then lifted up, and in some cases rolled and then cut to show the circular layers.

Laura Moriarty "Field Notes Revisions"
See Laura's website here.

And finally a 3-minute video that will give you some idea of how she makes her encaustic elements

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