Until now the only public art in Rye known to this writer is a painting depicting our country’s first Supreme Court Chief Justice and early New York Governor, John Jay.
By Arthur Stampleman
Until now the only public art in Rye known to this writer is a painting depicting our country’s first Supreme Court Chief Justice and early New York Governor, John Jay. The painting is in the lobby of the Rye Post Office. It is John Jay at his Home by the early 20th century American artist, Guy Pene Du Bois. It was commissioned for the post office as part of the Depression-era WPA program and installed in 1938.
But just before this year’s election day, I encountered another example of public art that has been here since 2011. On that cold November day I went into the Rye railroad station to warm up from electioneering. I had not been in the station for some time so I was pleasantly surprised to find a striking mosaic mural along a wall of the station. It is a mural dedicated to the internationally recognized architect and designer Marcel Breuer, who designed the station that opened in 1959.
The mural is a composite representation of two-dozen examples of Breuer’s architectural projects and furniture designs. The images and colors in the mural are starkly geometric and striking, matching Breuer’s approach to design. As a student and then a faculty member at the Bauhaus in pre-WWII Germany, he first gained a reputation for designing modern furniture. After leaving Nazi Germany and settling in the United States his focus turned to architecture. Breuer’s numerous architectural phases included the white box and glass of the International style and the stone and shaped concrete that he used for New York’s Whitney Museum of Art.
We have to thank the following for the presence of the mural in Rye: Matt Mullican is the artist who designed it, Stephen Miotto of Miotto Mosaics in Carmel, who constructed it, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s MTA Arts & Design Department which commissioned it. The MTA’s Katherine Meehan explained that the MTA has some 240 public art works in its network of stations and other facilities — mosaics, sculptures, work in glass, paintings, and more. There is an annual program to add to their “collection,” and in 2011 it was Rye’s turn. They announced a contest for the design of a public artwork, which included a requirement that the design be site-specific for Rye. Four proposals were received and Mullican’s design was accepted.
Mullican is a contemporary artist with an international following. His work has been represented in exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern, Venice, and in an exhibit at MoMA last summer. Not easy to categorize, Mullican has been labeled a member of the Picture Generation, the group of artists famous for appropriating images initiated by others, and his work takes form as drawing, collage, rubbings, video, sculpture, and performance. He was born in California in 1951 and now divides his time between New York and Berlin.
Miotto Mosaics Art Studios Inc. specializes in artistic mosaics for public art programs. The firm has installed other mosaics for the MTA, as well as in U.S. Embassies in Romania and Serbia with more embassy commissions underway. The design and installation team consists of Stephen Moiotto and three associates.
The mosaic mural is made up of irregular-shaped yellow, gray, black, and white clay ceramic tiles that are about one-quarter inch square. They are applied to the wall using the paper-mounted indirect method. The artist first draws and paints the original art work in a small scale, which is then enlarged on paper to the desired size of the final mosaic. The paper is then flipped over, it is divided into several sections, and the faces of the tiles are glued to each section of the paper. Mortar is applied to the wall and the back of each section of tiles is placed on the mortar on the wall. When the mortar and back of the tiles are firmly together, the paper is removed and the mosaic is complete. The tile installation took about ten days. The Rye station building is open weekdays from 6:10 to 10:50 a.m. and 11:10 a.m. to 1:40 p.m.
If anyone knows of other public art in Rye, please let us know.