By Melissa Donovan
While we commonly associate wide format digital printing as a means for out-of-home marketing, it is also used by artists and designers to communicate about current events and affairs. Blazo Kovacevic, assistant professor of art and design, Binghamton University, and art director, Binghamton University Art Museum is one such person. The professor not only teaches art and design classes, he is also responsible for the design of promotional materials for the art museum as well curating and designing its exhibitions. Additionally, he creates his own artwork.
Above: The Incited exhibition shown in the Dowd Gallery at SUNY Cortland University used a 3-mil clear vinyl with clear lowtac PSA by General Formulations, Ultraflex Systems’ UltraVision Window Perf 60/40, and Photo Tex peel-and-stick adhesive material. It was printed on a Roland VersaUV LEJ-640.
Educating the Next Generation
In 2009, Kovacevic happened upon wide format UV digital printing technology. Impressed with the output, he started printing his art directly onto special polycarbonate film. Taking his personal experience into the workplace, in 2014, he was asked to further the development of the university’s growing graphic design concentration. The result was the Visual Media Center, created in a collaborative effort between Kovacevic and his colleagues. It included a Roland DGA Corporation VersaUV LEJ-640 UV hybrid printer.
“I think this was a game changer for us because shortly after that we were able to produce interesting new exhibitions in the university museum as well as get students interested in large format printing. We are constantly exploring and forever learning new and exciting things that we can do with this technology,” explains Kovacevic.
The Roland VersaUV LEJ-640 is an influence in the classroom. For example, in Spring 2017, as part of the professor’s Advanced Drawing Class, students developed art concepts and designs showcasing their talents for large walls in the new Binghamton University Admissions Center. The graphics were printed with the Roland device on Photo Tex Group, Inc. peel-and-stick adhesive material made from 100 percent polyester fabric.
“We look forward to new opportunities to serve clients and communities outside of our university. These provide real world creative and technical challenges necessary for the growth of our students, our program, and the department overall,” shares Kovacevic.
UV Print Curator
In 2015, Kovacevic became the art director of the Binghamton University Art Museum. He immediately used the Roland UV printer to curate and design an exhibition by Mirko IIić, titled Mirko IIić: Face to Ground. With the idea of applying wallcoverings throughout the exhibit space, Kovacevic looked for a material that would allow for maximum creative freedom, as well as flexibility in installation and affordability. “The latter a particularly important consideration for projects at a state university,” he adds.
Media supplier, D&P Media for Print, Inc., first introduced Kovacevic to Photo Tex. Not only did it offer high print quality, its repositionability made it ideal for the project. Large sections of the museum’s walls were covered with IIić’s illustrations and designs.
A more recent event curated and designed by Kovacevic included both an exhibition and a catalog featuring the recent work of illustrator and graphic designer, Milton Glaser. It used wide format digital printing and an anamorphic illusion to extend Glaser’s work into larger formats. The installation, titled Milton Glaser: Modulated Patterns immersed the viewer in patterned prints of landscapes, objects, and people. Graphics were printed on the Roland UV printer.
Owning the Show
As Kovacevic is an artist in his own right, he constantly exhibits his work. A few years ago he visited the Dowd Gallery at SUNY Cortland University and noticed the potential of the gallery’s layout. Speaking with the director, Kovacevic lined up a solo exhibition for Fall 2017.
He worked for more than a year developing visual modules that depicted the story of human trafficking and ultimately named the exhibition Incited. “I was deeply moved by images and stories of illegal immigrants being transported in inhumane conditions across European borders,” explains Kovacevic. To educate himself, he connected with customs agents of these transit countries, receiving visual materials like x-ray scans of the inside of the transportation trucks to base his work on.
Unfortunately, the original material from the customs agents was not adequate resolution or quality to reproduce via wide format printing. X-ray scanners aren’t designed to create suitable printable images. Kovacevic wanted the installation to be life size, so he had to think of another way to make his vision a reality. He chose to use the x-rays as models, creating three-dimensional (3D) designs of vehicles, objects, and people that could be printed and reproduced on a large scale through a variety of media from wide format printing to 3D printing, animation, and virtual reality.
The project consisted of one window print and two other large format prints displayed on regular walls. For the window print, he looked for a technology that offered varying degrees of transparency—transforming from transparent to opaque as daylight diminished. Enter fellow designer Cary Quinn. He developed the Reflex method, which allows for different images to be seen depending on the direction of the light source. Quinn allowed Kovacevic to use the method for his artwork.
Materials used included a 3-mil clear vinyl with clear low-tac PSA by General Formulations, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.’s UltraVision Window Perf 60/40, and Photo Tex. All were printed on the Roland VersaUV LEJ-640 with Roland Eco-UV ink.
“The clear vinyl substrate was ideal for this project because it allowed for just the right amount of clarity needed for the window installation. The mesh material allowed for easy printing and handling during installation. The Roland UV printer was ideal because it allowed flexibility with the file planning and preparation. It made the whole project cost effective with low ink consumption,” explains Kovacevic.
The window print required 805 square feet of printed media. The 1:1 window installation depicted an image of a semi-trailer carrying two containers concealing three illegal immigrants. As time past from day to night, viewers in the gallery noticed changes in the imagery from x-ray view to opaque. The other two large format prints used 183 and 174 square feet of Photo Tex media.
Kovacevic and three other people installed all three pieces in about a week. He admits there were challenges when it came to applying the clear substrate. The window print was output in 16 separate panels due to their large size. Eight panels measured 70×70 inches and another eight measured 32×70 inches. When it came time to place everything together, there was constant checking and rechecking to ensure accurate placement of each panel. In addition, certain pieces had to be cut post-production to fit into the window panes in the gallery. The final size of the window graphic was 102×560 inches.
Without Wide Format
Without the use of wide format printing, Kovacevic believes this project would not have come to fruition in the iteration it is now known. “I knew that the only way to have a convincing and meaningful art installation was by having a true life-size representation of the people and vehicles that I wanted to depict. That immediately pushed me towards wide format printing technology,” he shares.
The Incited exhibition opened on October 23, 2017 and remained up until December 8, 2017.
Feb2018, Digital Output