I have often wondered at the ambiguous status of mosaics in the art world. On the one hand, mosaics are one of the most ancient art forms and art lovers go out of their way to view mosaics all over the world in their original sites. Museums collect them and move them and great expense. Government restore and maintain them. Art books feature them.
But for some reason, this valorization of ancient mosaics does not always extend to contemporary creations. Today, modern mosaics struggle under the burden of the craft designation. Shows still do not offer a mosaic category in which mosaicists can compete in order to exhibit their works, while the same shows list ceramics, textiles, photography, woodwork, metal, leather (and I have probably forgotten some) in addition to the more traditional painting and sculpture. "Mixed media," the alternative for a mosaicist, has become a grab bag, even a dumping ground, that does not do justice to the special language of mosaics. And many galleries and curators still shy away from mosaics for fear of that craft label.
Granted, some mosaics are not high art. Some are Sunday productions by hobbyists. But after all, the same can be said of painting, and this has fortunately not stopped painting from being the most recognized visual art form. In fact the same can be said of any art form. We like them, we enjoy them, we want to try our hand at them, and for the most, anyone can produce a work in a few hours. Community and art centers offer classes in sketching, painting, coloring and what not. The creations are usually not on par with the masters' art. And yet the co-existence of the amateurs' works and artists' has not damaged the perceived value of the art as a whole.
I shall try another day to better understand the historical reasons of this aberration. For now, however, I intend to bypass the vexing craft/art distinction, and instead reflect on what makes a mosaic, or more importantly, on what makes a good mosaic. This is the purpose of this blog, and I invite its visitors to share this enterprise by contributing their comments and experiences. Together, we can elaborate a grammar of mosaics that will enrich the pleasure and appreciation of contemporary viewers.