There is a driving force behind the print collective, Supergraphic, at #601 Ramseur Street in Durham. The Clarion Content tag-team, namely me, your friendly neighborhood Editor and our man on the beat and behind the mic, Justin Laidlaw aka Buddy Ruski, got to meet with the movers and shakers, Raj Bunnag and Brian Gonzales.
Raj Bunnag is a transplant from Baltimore who lives in a Durham house barely two miles away from Supergraphic. Raj reached out to Supergraphic founder and adjunct Duke professor, Bill Fick, when he moved to Durham in 2012 after getting his BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Fick had already founded, Cockeyed Press, an internationally recognized printmaking studio, and was working on Supergraphic, a creative art studio dedicated to the production of fine art prints and print media. The idea was to teach printmaking workshops and provide DIY workspace. He needed a bigger space and a team. In Raj Bunnag and his fellow print making specialist, Brian Gonzales, Fick discovered the leadership and talent he needed to make that dream a reality.
Gonzales knew Fick from East Carolina University and the small world of elite printmakers, they reconnected at a conference, when the Supergraphic space was still undergoing renovation. Gonzales got the keys and helped shepherd the process to completion.
Sensing that sweet spot, Bunnag has recently resigned his position as the head printer at Durham’s Ad Spice so he can dedicate more time to Supergraphic.
While Fick focuses on the finances and business aspects, contract printing and working with publishers, how the studio keeps the doors open and makes money, Bunnag and Gonzales are all about harnessing Supergraphic’s collective power. Sharing talent, ideas, and the machines that can make concepts into real world output. The shop is filled with cool gear. They offer the workshops to teach the curious and the hobbyists, as well as certify the professionals on their equipment. Much like the beloved national model, Tech Shop, once certified through a workshop on a given machine users can rent shop or machine time through a variety of plans that allow them to access and operate high-end machinery that often forms a barrier for entry to business for the independent or sole-proprietor.
This collective actualization and empowerment is not accidental. Bunnag and Gonzales are activists for change. Bunnag, who is talented artist in his own right, says that for him, “Art is the thing that means you can’t forget.” To paraphrase, he said, ‘It [Art] activates, like a Pandora’s Box releasing memes into the world that once brought into existence can’t be easily eliminated.’
In a vibrant conversation that proceeded from there, Bunnag, Gonzales, Buddy Ruski, and I discussed the internet’s ability to spread ideas and the comparison of this age with advent of the printing press. We agreed distribution channels are still muddled and evolving. In our interview conducted not long after Ferguson exploded and while the ALS viral video campaign was peaking, Bunnag and Ruski noted that the people who don’t understand the internet’s ability to project social power and be a force for change outnumber those who do. [People realize the capacity exists, but don’t know how to harness it.]
We paid a brief homage to video’s ability to go places the written word might not reach. Bunnag and Gonzales have made a fabulous video about Supergraphic, featuring one of Raj’s amazing linocuts. (See the video below.)
The linocut being created in the video one is called “March of the Druggernaughts” which Bunnag says is composed of fantastical manifestations of our decades long War on Drugs. It is about shakedowns and profitable commodities. For Bunnag, ideas are conduits to change.
Bunnag and Gonzales told us that printmaking has a long history of connection with social activism. Our readers know we founded this journal drawing inspiration from the early American agitator and revolutionary printer, Ben Franklin. Bunnag and Gonzales were clearly preaching to the choir. Printmaking’s power is undiminished, as it is possible to argue Shepherd Fairy played an instrumental and perhaps even pivotal role in electing Obama.
Bunnag says he was inspired, in part, by Leopoldo Mendez, a revolutionary Mexican printmaker, who lived through many of Mexico’s 20th century upheavals. Mendez was a voice of the people, fighting inequality and leading a collective called, “Taller de Gráfica Popular” or “The People’s Graphic Workshop.”
Bunnag and Gonzales hope that Supergraphic can similar be a hub for those who are passionate about equality and the social change required to bring it to fruition. They have spitballed with Buddy Ruski the idea of offering to help make signs for Moral Monday activists and other demonstrators for social change. Perhaps they can connect with Pierce Freelon or Lamont Lilly who are working for equality for the neighborhoods and communities that ring Supergraphic.
Check out Supergraphic on the web here or in person at #601 Ramseur Street. Some of Bunnag’s work can be seen at Supergraphic and will also be exhibited in the “Loaded Objects” show next month at the Carrack.