This all started out in February by wandering the Chelsea art galleries while on lunch break from my own gallery and walking into Yossi Milos gallery and stumbling onto the freeform ready-made mosaic work of Cameron Welch. The mosaic was tucked in the back of a small room off the hallway of Milos gallery.
I had not heard of the artist work before, nor was there a recommendation made to me to see it. It was just happenstance, one of those moments when you stumble into an object that sets off an idea and leads to the exciting chain of events when artists and directors collaborate. That idea being this exhibit.
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) made exactly one mosaic in his lifetime an untitled mosaic created between 1938-1941 when Pollock was the age of 27, made of mosaic tesserae in cement within a braced wooden frame and measures 54-x-24-inches. This work was created long before he developed his pioneering drip paintings. It was created for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project the WPA/FAP (JPCR 1048). This work was never allocated to a government building, so it was brought out to the Springs, in East Hampton, N.Y. along with bits and pieces of broken tesserae not used in the final composition. Those broken pieces were used in 2021 for restoration work organized by Helen A. Harrison, Director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, and executed by Stephen Miotto of Miotto Mosaics Art Studios, Inc.
The Washburn Gallery has represented the Pollock Krasner Foundation for over ten years, and we have exhibited this, his only mosaic, in many exhibitions here in the United States and abroad. It has been exhibited in the context of his own work, paintings, drawings, etchings, screen prints and or in the context of art history.
Yet, it has never been simply exhibited in the context of the medium itself or amongst other artists past and present working in this most ancient and pixilated material.
So, I asked many to help me pull this together where I could, from examples of artist currently working in this material and experts dealing in Antiquities. I went to Roland Augustine who had at the time in February an exhibition “The Medieval Body” the third in a series of vanguard exhibitions that places medieval masterpieces within a contemporary context, in conjunction with Sam Fogg who did not work with ancient and Byzantine mosaics but pointed me to the way to those who dealt with Greco-Roman-African worlds. Through many emails and phone calls I reached out to Christian Levett founder of Musée d’art Classique de Mougins, who helped me understand the complications of authenticity and of the current state of shipping antiquities during covid. He pointed me to Max Bernheimer of Christies who led me to Randall Hixembough and finally to Joseph Coplin of Antiquarium in N.Y. who have graciously consigned our gallery the antiquities.
Roland Augustine, enthusiastically, also made the point of looking at what his artist Philip Taaffe was planning to do with the mosaic tiling. So that led to a follow up call with Philip. Things started rolling as I approached Sam Sachs of the PKF foundation who had me look at Pietra Dura and micro mosaics and suggested Rashid Johnson. Joan Washburn put me in touch with Edvard Lieber who suggested first Jeanne Reynal a contemporary of Pollocks and the mosaic work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Eric Firestone and the fantastic staff at his gallery helped with Reynal while Arlie Sulka of Lillian Nassau provided the Tiffany mosaic samples. I am grateful to all who helped, and my extraordinary colleagues Kara Gillam and Alex Michner.