Primrose Press ~ California
(Tia Blassingame)


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Tia Blassingame: "Through my work I am interested in engaging what I call the reader/viewer in a conversation about historical and contemporary racism in the United States using printmaking techniques in the book form, so artists' books. I kind of try to seduce the reader through materials, color, tactility, pacing to kind of slow their initial impulse to sort of avoid or flee a conversation about race."
Broadside by Tia Blassingame  

Yuvette's Purse
ByTia Blassingame
Primrose Press, 2015. Edition of 5.

7 x 9" closed; one opening. Handmade paper. Letterpress printed. Numbered and initialed by the artist.

Tia Blassingame: "On February 3, 2015, [Yuvette Henderson] 38 year-old mother of two was shot and killed by Emeryville, California police officers near Extra Space Storage at the Oakland-Emeryville line.

"This piece consists of an original concrete poem in the shape of a handbag printed on paper handmade by the artist."
$480 (Last Copy)

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By ia Blassingame
[Silver Spring, Maryland]: Primrose Press, 2011. Edition of 7.

3.25 x 7.25" closed, extends to 9"; 8 pages. Flutter book construction. Sumi-e ink and linoleum block prints. Printed on Japanese washi paper. Handbound in cherry red Japanese cloth over boards. Title label on front board handset letterpress on Primrose Press handmade paper. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Tia Blassingame: "Commonplace is a flutter book. It consists of original poetry letterpress printed with sumi-e ink and linoleum block prints that emulate cherry blossoms flowing in the breeze."
$125 (Last Copy)

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Primrose Press Out of Print Title:  

Grunion Run
By Tia Blassingame
Silver Spring, Maryland: Primrose Press, 2011. Edition of 5.

8.25 x 8" closed, opens to 32"; 4 pages. Accordion structure extending from both boards. Handset type (Erhardt) letterpress printed on paper handmade by Blassingame. Boards covered with navy Japanese bookcloth. Paper title label on front cover.

Grunion are sardine-sized fish found off the coast of California and Baja California. Grunion Runs occur usually at night during very high tides when female grunions swim as far up the beach as they can and use their tails to bury eggs in the sand; males wrap themselves around females to deposit sperm. The eggs remain buried until the next very high tide 10 or more days later, when young grunions are washed out to sea.

Tia Blassingame: "The paper references the shoreline and the activity of the grunion run."

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An Abecedarian
By Tia Blassingame
Newport, Rhode Island: Primrose Press, 2016. Edition of 26.

8.5 x 11"; 32 pages including wrappers. Digitally printed in Josefin Sans typeface. Saddle stitch binding. Signed and numbered.

Tia Blassingame: "Stripping the maritime alphabet of its primary colors and replacing them with muted browns and blacks, Mourning/Warning highlights the relationship of Americans of the African diaspora to water, maritime trade, and the need for an alternate means of communication in times of emergency and duress. How do you send a warning call that hatred comes constantly in waves?

"M/W serves as a method of honoring, mourning, and remembering the slain and wronged as well as teaching our children and ourselves to be vigilant and wary in hostile terrain, where your skin color makes you an easy target."

Proceeds will be donated to non-profits including NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Innocence Project.

This is a simple but shrewdly designed presentation of disturbing information. It transforms mere documentation into a lament and call for change. From the Alfa flag (in its muted version representing Marissa Alexander, sentenced for firing a warning shot at her husband when he attacked her) to the Zulu flag (representing Ousmane Zongo, unarmed but killed by a NYC officer during a 2003 warehouse raid), this list of mostly unremembered casualties represents part of the everyday reality for people of color.

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Past Present: DC
ByTia Blassingame
Washington DC: Primrose Press, 2012. Edition of 3.

Set of two books and two wall hangings. Two volumes (Past DC; Present DC): 9 x 17 x 1.75"; 22 pages, 20 pages. Text was printed with handset and polymer letterpress on handmade paper made of the artist's clothing and Rives paper. Typefaces employed included Archer, Century Schoolbook, Helvetica, Janson, Old Claude, Optima, and Univers. Poster TGothic and Devinne wood typefaces formerly of the Government Printing Office were also used. Laid in clamshell box covered in matching handmade paper with cloth spine. Two wall hangings: 30 x 132".

Tia Blassingame, Past DC Colophon: "Surveying historical segregation in the District of Columbia, Past Present: DC posits the idea that we are as segregated today as yesterday. We are separated by the same fears, hat, ignorance, and silence. As the nation's capital and as an American city, D.C. is layered with sites of humiliation, trauma, and racial violence that do not need to be within the city's physical borders to become part of the urban grid and \psyche. Conveyors of information, outrage, and sentiment within African American communities across the nation.

"In Past Present: DC, text from historic Jim Crow signs of the DC metro area and other American cities aware printed with handset wood and metal type. Text was position to allow the page to act as a reconstituted sign. Listings of area establishments that accepted African American customers came from mid-twentieth century issues of The Negro Motorists Green Book and Travelguide.

"The lyrics of popular American songs portray the journey of African American and white residents across the city where The Star-Spangled Banner seems symbolic of independence, songs of significance to the African American community and of prominence in the Civil Rights movement represent the African American citizen's restricted journey. From 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' by Wallis Willis to James Weldon Johnson's 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' to 'A Change is Gonna' Come' written by Sam Cooke, the songs change in step with the African American citizen's struggles for equity, enfranchisement, and recognition as an American and a human being' as the white citizen's position or primacy as an American has never been in doubt, the representative song 'The Star Spangled Banner' remains static."

Tia Blassingame, Present DC Colophon: "Text from popular bumper stickers, the news cycle, and contemporary political rhetoric replace historic Jim Crow era signs. Mirroring the rhetoric and prejudices of the past: African Americans as primates, promiscuous, and un-American, terms overrun the page and compete for attention, page spreads turn into billboards or monitors.

"A shift in residents' journeys presents as a reversal of lyric placement. While The Star Spangled Banner still represents the white resident, original text running fluidly across the book picks up where Negro spiritual and popular song lyrics left off in Past Present: DC."

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Slavery's Historic House Signs: in harvest II
By Tia Blassingame
[Providence, Rhode Island]]: Primrose Press, 2015. One-of-a-kind (Series variant).

5.5 x 31" scarf of organza. Screen printed.

Design Indaba Conference 2015, Tia Blassingame on the texture of racism in the United States: "When Tia Blassingame arrived in Rhode Island she began collecting autumn leaves and imaging the many slaves who might have seen the leaves from those same trees changing colour many years ago. Feeling moved by the thought that these leaves were perhaps not all she had in common with the slaves of early modern America, Blassingame began a project that would engage readers in a conversation about race through playing with their senses.

"Blassingame screen-printed receipts and accounts from slave ships onto the leaves.

“Brown inks that represented the colours of the autumn leaves and the skin colour of the slaves,” says Blassingame.

"She then made a golden headscarf that was printed with images of these leaves and words, to investigate how the wearer might carry herself, knowing that she was wearing words from a slave receipt."

Tia Blassingame: "Every city and history holds invisible populations. Walking past the historic homes along Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island, one passes house markers that distinguish a population of white males and their achievements. The scarf-artists' book considers the African slaves that resided and worked in the homes of the Brown and Hopkins families. While their owners are remembered as the founders of Brown University, businessmen or as the state Governor, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the slaves have been forgotten. This piece is part of a larger project, that began as a way of cataloguing names and facts as I conducted research on the role of Rhode Island in the Atlantic slave trade at the John Carter Brown Library of Brown University.

"Each fabric piece represents the content of an artists' book, a journey down a street and through history and family trees. How it is bound, covered, paced, draped is up to you, the reader/wearer. Also up to you is how, if at all the reader/viewers that you will encounter will be able access or read this artists' book that you activate by how you arrange and wear it."

For example, the notation Yarrow Brown House ¼ free represents Yarrow who was a slave owned by the four Brown Brothers of Rhode Island. When the brother Moses Brown freed his slaves Yarrow then was only a quarter free; that is, ¼ free or ¾ slave.

Link to video "Tia Blassingame on the texture of racism in the United States"

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Page last update: 11.19.17


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