Early in 2008, the State of Louisiana contracted with McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, Inc. to evaluate the feasibility, and design a plan, for the relocation of a large mosaic by Louisiana artist Conrad Albrizio. The state then asked the company to perform the work during the summer of 2008, just ahead of demolition of its building. Preparation got underway to remove and mount another concrete-bound mosaic.
In 2005, McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory , Inc. safely removed, restored and installed elsewhere another mosaic by Conrad Albrizio located in Mobile, Alabama. The Alabama mosaic was adhered to a concrete wall. The mosaic tiles were safely removed and remounted onto lightweight aluminum panels.
McKay Lodge Laboratory, Inc. President Robert Lodge is an expert in the rare work of mosaic and wall tile art removal, restoration, mounting and relocation. He studied mosaic relocation methodology and published a pioneering method for remounting a removed and damaged concrete-bound ancient Antioch mosaic as part of his graduate school work for a Master of Science in Art Conservation degree in 1982.
For the 2008 mosaic mural, McKay Lodge Conservators demonstrated this unique capability to completely remove concrete from the back of mosaic tesserae and tiles so that the mosaic media can be adhered directly to lightweight aluminum panels. Typically after treatment, each lightweight modular panel bearing a section of the mosaic or tile artwork can be handled by two people during the reinstallation process.
The New Orleans mosaic measures 12 feet tall and 20 feet wide and is made of thousands of fragile colored glass tesserae produced in the famous mosaic glass works of Venice, Italy. The mosaic was bonded to a concrete wall located on the second floor of the State Office Building. The building was irreparably damaged during hurricane Katrina and was slated for demolition.
First the mosaic was assessed on-site to determine if it was safe and possible to remove it. After the assessment, the fabric facing was applied followed by a wood facing. This protects the mosaic in transit as well keeps the tesserae in place for the destinallation and restoration process.
After the facings were in place, the mosaic was strategically divided into ten sections, each removed with its portion of concrete wall and brought out of the building to the ground through a window. Emmett Lodge performed this procedure as part of the Albrizio mosaic removal along with Conservator Stefan Dedecek.
Emmett Lodge then operated the lift, carefully removing the mosaic section by section in order to transport the work of art to the conservation lab facilities in Oberlin, Ohio.
At the lab, the previous mortar was removed from the reverse of the tiles or tesserae. This is the most time consuming process, but it is highly necessary to achieve a low weight necessary for repanelization.
The next step was to remove the facings, revealing perfectly intact mosaic sections. The sections were then bonded to new panels. A specially formulated adhesive capable of bonding to aluminum and to ceramic materials is required. Most adhesives, such as epoxies, bond well to one but not the other material.
Panels were initially realigned into position at the lab for the upcoming reinstallation on-site. Each modular panel joins with another to recreate the original configuration with hardly visible joint lines.
These seams are then filled on-site to create the most visually continuous surface possible. Such mounted mosaic or tile artworks are then easily relocatable again in the future for either temporary exhibitions or changes in ownership with new display locations.
The mosaics of Conrad Albrizio, of which there are many, do not seem to have had much exposure in print. A 2019 publication from the Louisiana State University Press, The Frescoes of Conrad Albrizio, by Carolyn Bercier, provides just a little information and images on his mosaics in a brief closing chapter.