Practise

About

Practise is a Providence-based design studio working with clients and collaborators on projects in the academic, architectural, civic, cultural, and publishing fields across Asia, Australasia, Europe, and North America.

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry?

April 2016

Publication: Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, Skira Rizzoli

Published on the occasion of a landmark retrospective exhibition, Kerry James Marshall: Mastry is the definitive monograph on contemporary African American artist Kerry James Marshall, one of America’s greatest living painters. Born before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, in Birmingham, Alabama, and witness to the Watts riots in 1965, Marshall has long been an inspired and imaginative chronicler of the African American experience. Best known for his large-scale paintings featuring black figures, defiant assertions of blackness in a medium in which African Americans have long been “invisible men,” Marshall’s interrogation of art history covers a broad temporal swath stretching from the Renaissance to 20th-century American abstraction. He critically examines the Western canon through its most canonical forms: the historical tableau, landscape, and portraiture. His work also touches upon vernacular forms such as the muralist tradition and the comic book, as seen in his comics-inspired Rythm Mastr drawings (2000–present), in order to address and correct the “vacuum in the image bank”—in other words, to make the invisible visible. The exhibition first opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (Apr 23–Sep 25, 2016); touring to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Met Breuer, New York (Oct 25, 2016–Jan 29, 2017), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (Mar 12–Jul 2, 2017).

The publication is designed by James Goggin, edited by exhibition curators Helen Molesworth (MOCA), Dieter Roelstraete (Documenta, ex-MCA Chicago), and Ian Alteveer (The Met), and produced by the publishing department at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, co-published between Skira Rizzoli and the Met; MCA Chicago, and MOCA. Through collective studio visits and public and private collection tours across Chicago, JG worked closely with Pat Goley and the prepress staff at Prographics, MCA Chicago publishing and reproduction staff, and Kerry James Marshall himself, to produce the most precise reproductions to date of the artist’s luscious colour, nuanced dark tones, and highly detailed patterning. Richly illustrated, this monumental book features essays by each of the curators; Lanka Tattersall, assistant curator at MOCA; and a new essay by Marshall, in addition to an anthology of previously published essays by the artist. More than 100 paintings from throughout the artist’s career are arranged thematically by subject: history painting; beauty, as expressed through the nude, portraiture, and self-portraiture; landscape; religion; and the politics of black nationalism.

Printed in Belgium at Die Keure, Bruges, on three different paper stocks in CMYK with an additional fifth colour dense black, the book is casebound with black foil stamped cotton cloth, featuring a tipped-on reproduction of Marshall’s Untitled (Painter) (2009) on the cover. For further reading, visit MCA Chicago’s excellent exhibition microsite, with a contextual art history timeline, selection of essays from the catalogue, and a highly-recommended video interview with the artist.

Pictured: Kerry James Marshall: Mastry cover

Zina Saro-Wiwa: Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance?

February 2016

Publication: Zina Saro-Wiwa: Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance?, Blaffer Art Museum, Houston, and Krannert Art Museum, Champaign

Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance? is the first publication on the work of Zina Saro-Wiwa, a British-Nigerian video artist and filmmaker based in Brooklyn. Occupying the space between documentary and performance, Saro-Wiwa’s videos, photographs, and sound produced in the Niger Delta region of southeastern Nigeria from 2013–2015 explore folklore, masquerade traditions, religious practices, food, and Nigerian popular aesthetics. Engaging Niger Delta residents as subjects and collaborators, Saro-Wiwa cultivates strategies of psychic survival and performance, testing contemporary art’s capacity to transform and to envision new concepts of environment and environmentalism. Known for decades for corruption and environmental degradation, the Niger Delta is one of the largest oil producing regions of the world, and until 2010 provided the United States with a quarter of its oil. Saro-Wiwa returns to this contested region—the place of her birth—to tell new stories.

The publication has been produced to accompany a solo exhibition with the same title at the Blaffer Art Museum, Houston, and the Krannert Art Museum, Champaign. Designed by James Goggin and Shan James, the book is printed on three different paper stocks, documenting Saro-Wiwa’s works, featuring a special recipe section based on the artist’s in-gallery feast performance, with essays by writer Taiye Selasi, Niger Delta historian Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa, environmental cultural studies scholar Stephanie LeMenager, exhibition curator Amy L. Powell, and an interview with the artist by Princeton art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu. The hardcover book is wrapped hardcover with sky blue Imitlin, blocked with copper foil, and casebound with five coloured ribbon markers.

Pictured: Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance? cover

Terra Foundation Essays: Picturing

January 2016

Publication: Picturing, Terra Foundation for American Art, Paris

Terra Foundation for American Art, based in Chicago and Paris, has initiated a new publication series titled Terra Foundation Essays, providing an international forum for an exploration of fundamental ideas and concepts that have shaped American art and culture over time. The biannual publications present original research by an international roster of established and emerging scholars who consider American art in its multiple, trans-geographic contexts.

James Goggin and Shan James have provided design direction for the series (with an initial projected run of six volumes) as well as the design and typesetting of each volume. Each publication features a detailed, often deliberately enigmatic, pictorial crop on the cover, with titles and texts set exclusively in type designed by the American type designer, calligrapher, and book designer William Addison Dwiggins (1880–1956). Titles are derived from Dwiggins’s lettering for Paul Hollister’s American Alphabets (New York: Harper Brothers, 1930), while body text is set in Electra (1935–49), with headings and notes in Metro (1929–30).

The inaugural volume, Picturing, is edited by Rachael Z. DeLue (Associate Professor, American Art, Princeton University) and explores the nature and capacity of images, with essays by a distinguished international group of scholars discussing the creation and consumption of images from the early modern period through the end of the twentieth century. Print and DRM-free PDF and EPUB editions are available from University of Chicago Press, with iBook and Kindle editions available through Apple and Amazon. The physical publications are printed at Die Keure in Bruges, Belgium, and bound Otabind at Hexspoor in Boxtel, the Netherlands.

Pictured: Picturing cover, with detail of Mason Chamberlin, Benjamin Franklin, 1762

Studio Gang website homepage

October 2015

Website: Studio Gang Architects, Chicago

This summer Practise and regular collaborators Studio Scasascia were excited to partner with Studio Gang, a favourite architecture practice of ours, to design and build a new website for them. Based on an internal survey, the studio collectively identified the need for a site that was simultaneously clear and efficient; interesting and intriguing; thorough and practical; all while remaining playful and dynamic. The assembled team chose to embrace these disparate attributes and view them as not only compatible, but entirely appropriate for a site that would successfully articulate the intangible spirit that one encounters in visiting Studio Gang’s offices, exploring their expansive research, and experiencing their built works.

Thanks to their incredible communications, editorial, and archive team, along with the design principals, directors, project leaders, and Jeanne Gang herself, the site launches today, just in time for the public opening of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The website emphasises the equal importance of built projects and in-depth research to Studio Gang and, if you happen to be in town for the biennial, highlights in particular the diverse range of projects completed or in progress around the city.

Pictured: Studio Gang homepage detail, 3 October 2015

Pastoral Warning Road Sign

September 2015

Exhibition: 50 Years of British Road Signs, Design Museum, London

Practise has long admired the iconic British road sign system, designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert and introduced across the United Kingdom with the launch of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions document in 1965. To celebrate the system’s 50th anniversary, Patrick Murphy of Sheffield-based cultural organisation MadeNorth invited leading British artists and designers to transform the familiar circle, triangle, and square signs for a new exhibition, titled 50 Years of British Road Signs, now on display in and around London’s Design Museum. Alongside Practise, the exhibitors include artists Sir Peter Blake, Kate Gibb, and Julian Opie; designers Sara De Bondt, Milton Glaser, Graphic Thought Facility, Vaughan Oliver, and Aubrey Powell (Hipgnosis); and architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

For their contribution, Practise partners Shan James and James Goggin pulled their own well-thumbed, Post-it note-bookmarked copy of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (2002 edition, purchased at the old TSO shop on Kingsway in London) from the studio bookshelf, and borrowed shapes (not all of them Kinneir/Calvert originals, we must note) from various sections (Schedule 14 Parts I and II, “Proportions and Form of Symbols Indicating Types of Tourist Destination in England and Wales”, in particular) to make a so-called “Pastoral Warning Sign”. The resulting composition portrays a seemingly innocuous rolling pastoral landscape with slightly surreal and sinister undertones hinted at by the kaleidoscopic out-of-scale flora and fauna, and the very shape within which the scene is captured: a triangular warning sign.

The promise of adventure and escape has always been implicit (beyond the ostensibly banal role of directions, speed limits, and road works) in Calvert and Kinneir’s spare yet charming system, and with the brown tourist signs, this promise has always been explicit, actively encouraging impromptu detours to new discoveries. As a homage to Margaret and Jock, we thought that Londoners (especially drivers) could use a reminder, a warning even, in their congested urban context, that the countryside is still there, for now, beyond the M25, waiting to be explored and well worth a detour.

Pictured: Pastoral Warning Sign, by Shan James and James Goggin

Ettore Sottsass and the Poetry of Things, Phaidon Press

September 2015

Book: Ettore Sottsass and the Poetry of Things, Deyan Sudjic, Phaidon Press

Writer and director of London’s Design Museum Deyan Sudjic knew the late prolific, famed (and infamous) Italian designer and architect Ettore Sottsass, having first met him at one of the many pivotal moments of the designer’s life, after a party celebrating the launch of Memphis in 1981. Sudjic’s new biography, published by Phaidon, therefore represents both an encyclopedic yet personal life story of Sottsass, from World War II, through Olivetti, the founding of the Memphis Group in 1980, to increasingly impressive architectural commissions for Sottsass Associati up until his death in 2007.

James Goggin has been obsessed with Sottsass’s vast body and range of work ever since his childhood, with the visual influence of Memphis being felt in 1980s Australia and Sweden. Practise was therefore pleased to work on the design and typesetting of this important biography, taking multiple influences from Sottsass’s Olivetti projects (Futura Black lifted from the Valentine typewriter); experimental furniture, ceramic, and glass works (layers and stacking); and from the idiosyncratic colour palette developed across his life and career. Colour-blocked chapter dividers employ a total of ten different Pantone colours, and the cover hints at the textural range of Sottsass’s work with type and elements variously foil-block embossed, Pantone-coloured, and UV-coated.

Read more about the publication and Ettore Sottsass’s remarkable story in this feature on Phaidon’s website. Also recommended: Phaidon’s exhaustive monograph, Ettore Sottsass, published in 2014.

Pictured: Ettore Sottsass and the Poetry of Things book cover

David Kohn Architects website

June 2015

Website: David Kohn Architects, London

Practise has worked with London-based architect David Kohn since 2007, when we produced a new identity for him upon the founding of his architectural office. A graphically bold yet conceptually ambiguous mark (is it a bird? is it typography?) was constructed out of the seven shapes from the self-imposed constraints of the Chinese tangram puzzle system. Stationery, printed matter, and digital and print-on-demand publications have been produced on an ongoing basis, as well as collaborations on individual projects such as a modular signage system for Tutti a Tavola, the opening event of the Milan Furniture Fair in 2010.

The David Kohn Architects website, also launched in 2007 (just before the first iPhone came out), did its job for the practice for eight years, but has now been radically overhauled with Studio Scasascia in close collaboration with David and his staff to respond to the huge technological changes that have taken place in that time. The new site further emphasises the equal importance DKA places on projects and research, allowing flexible cross-connectivity between urban planning, built works, research, and writing at a particular stage of significant new commissions and growth for the practice.

Pictured: David Kohn Architects website announcement card & mobile site

Allemaal flag for 019 Ghent

April 2015

Flag: Allemaal, 019, Ghent

Founded in 2008 by artist collective Smoke & Dust, 019 is an artist-run exhibition, concert, and work space occupying a former welding factory in Ghent. An old discarded flagpole was found during an initial clean-up of their space and installed back to its original place on the roof with a flag introducing themselves to their new neighbourhood.

In March 2015, sixteen new flagpoles were added to run along the length of the building, and a number of artists and designers were invited to contribute to a new series of flags, including Will Holder, Joris Kritis & Julie Peeters, Ines Cox, Paul Elliman, Karel Martens, and Manuel Raeder. Practise proposed a design that would be simultaneously universal in sentiment and linguistically local. The result is a simple flag emblazoned with a Dutch word we’ve always liked: “Allemaal”, which means both “everything” and “everyone”, set in white monospaced type on United Nations blue.

Pictured: Allemaal flag, produced in an edition of two for 019, Ghent

Practise Archive