Public Art

Dispersed Events, 2018

Nick Mauss
Stairwell with hanging lights and a tin-glazed hand-painted ceramic mural on the wall behind.

Nick Mauss, Dispersed Events, 2018. MIT Percent-for-Art Commission. Photo by Peter Harris Studio.

Ralph Landau Building for Chemical Engineering (Building 66)
Nick Mauss
Seven tin-glazed hand painted ceramic murals
Dimensions variable

Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds

Nick Mauss’s Dispersed Events is comprised of seven tin-glazed, hand-painted ceramic murals of varying scales installed throughout the atria and stairways of I. M. Pei’s Ralph Landau Building for Chemical Engineering.

Mauss produced the series in collaboration with Bottega Gatti, a ceramics atelier known for its century-long history of working with artists, including several of the Italian Futurists. Exploiting and exaggerating the unpredictability of ceramic glazes and repeated firing processes, Mauss created surprising chemical reactions, color effects, and textures that lead his works to resemble watercolors and ink paintings. While their markings, hues, and compositions are largely abstract and gestural—including lines that resemble large scribbles and patterns that fade in and out of view—the murals are all structured by the grid, as individual ceramic tiles make up each distinct piece.

Mauss’s project extends a history of ceramic decoration in twentieth-century Brutalist architecture, which is often dominated by concrete. The fragility of the medium contrasts with the solidity of the building material, yet both have undergone chemical reactions to achieve their hardened state. Here, the fine vertical lines of the Landau Building’s poured concrete walls are echoed in the gutters between Mauss’s tiles, while the gray and white features of the architecture are enlivened by the yellows, pinks, and blues of the artist’s glazes. The artist’s decision to hang his works along staircases and open passageways create further exchanges between the structure and its decoration, as the murals can draw attention from multiple angles—up close, at a distance, from above or below. In a more direct response to Pei’s designs, Mauss also rehabilitated the original built-in concrete planters, installing pothos plants to cascade over the balconies and visually connect the floors of the two atria.

Nick Mauss (b. 1980) lives and works in New York. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2018); the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal (2017); and Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway (2013), among others. His work is in the collections of museums around the world, including the Long Museum, Shanghai; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Nouveau Musée National de Monaco; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the M+ Museum, Hong Kong. Dispersed Events is Mauss’s first permanent public art commission.