Dawn Hancock, at the helm of her formidable, socially conscious studio Firebelly Design and Bridgeport denizen Ed Marszewski, at the helm of his Public Media Institute, join forces again to offer this latest iteration of the survey “Typeforce.” In the “liner notes” on Firebelly’s blog page, Hancock began to concept the annual type-design exhibit by considering the implications of its numeric associations: “Beyond being the lucky number, it too symbolizes the deadly sins. These capital vices inspire a wealth of imagery and could make for a system with legs—here, toads represent greed, snakes depict envy. Lions portray wrath, snails illustrate sloth, pigs come to stand for gluttony. The goat constitutes lust, and the plumage perfect peacock personifies pride. Meaning, visual play, energy that has been around for nearly 1800 years, and who doesn’t want an opportunity to explore ‘wrath’ in their work?” Ultimately, however, what this background yielded up was a consideration rather of typology’s geometrics, and a construct of identity as a sum of its constituent parts, a kind of “kit” for the making of identity.
For Marszewski, the exhibit and its attempts to reimagine of the basic building blocks of these symbols through which we read and communicate has a distinctly progressive edge. “In a traditionally conservative city like Chicago, ‘Typeforce: The annual Showcase of Emerging Typographic All-Stars,’ shines a progressive light on the future of type.” he explains, pointing out how the event brings in ideas from not just outside Chicago, but internationally. “We receive hundreds of submissions from around the world and do our best to present what we think are a wide and varied showcase of what’s happening now in the minds of some of the planet’s most creative cultural workers.”
This elaboration of the particles of language representation, and of our navigation of its visual impact is a tenant Hancock is passionate about, and a virtuosity she credits her partner at Firebelly for bringing to the firm. “I know it sounds biased,” explains Hancock, “but Will [Miller] is the reason our work is as good as it is. I tend to get all the credit because I started the studio, but Will has the vision for the work you see and he absolutely deserves to be recognized. Beyond Firebelly, he’s been an educator at the Chicago Portfolio School for eight years and his amazing typographic skills are just inspiring.” Bringing these variegated influences to bear, the pair’s curatorial efforts have yielded up a final selection of more than thirty designers, including work by Iranian poet and Sylvia Plath translator Pegah Ahmadi, Taekyeom Lee, whose work investigates the elisions between type and ceramics, and Jenna Blazevich of the boutique Vichcraft Design Studio. Blazevich’s “Angel In the House” series updates and unpacks the gender assumptions of Victorian-era “Berlin work” tapestries for women, whom were expected to stay home where they could remain pure and “untouched by the world,” infusing these mail-order hobby kits with feminist quotes from Emmeline Pankhurst, Jennifer Finney Boylan and Bell Hooks. (Michael Workman)
Typeforce 7 at the Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 South Morgan. Through March 11. By appointment. (773)655-6769, typeforcechicago.com