COLPA is a San Francisco-based publishing company, a design firm and a print shop, and the collaborative art practice of David Kasprzak and Luca Antonucci. Founded in 2010 by Luca and Carissa Potter, Colpa started as a way to sell their own print work. They turned to Risograph printing initially because of its affordability and practicality.
Now, the studio invites artists to work with them on an original project, whether that takes the shape of a publication, an object or an exhibition. Colpa has exhibited with SFMOMA at the FOG Design + Art Fair, the NY Art Book Fair at PS1 MoMa, the LA Art Book Fair at the Geffen Contemporary MOCA, the Kadist Foundation and the Headlands Center for the Arts. Their upcoming publications are a collaboration with Mads Lynnerup that will, in part, burst in to flames upon reading, as well as a new book of original artwork by Matt Borruso.
Here’s what Luca had to say about their work:
Paul Wackers print by Colpa
1. What inspired both of you to get into the print and publishing world?
Both David and myself, have been working in print in some way or another for most of our adult life.
I started printing just after finishing graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute and moving to Berlin. I stumbled across a wonderful print shop associated with BBK (berufsverband bildender künstler) Berlin called Druckwekstatt. It was sort of a community shop where you paid a small fee and had access to all their printmaking equipment. It was a great place to learn.
When I came back to the Bay Area, I found a similar community at the Kala Art Institute and worked out of their artist-in-residency program for 2 years before setting up my own shop. Art book publishing has always been a passion of mine.
David has worked as a curator at several institutions and has been part of producing catalogs for exhibitions and collection within these institutions.
Both David and I have been collecting art books since we were in school. It only made sense that when we started working together we would gravitate more towards that aspect of printing than anything else.
2. What was the path leading up to you starting your own press, and including Risograph printing as part of it? How did you initially find out about Risograph printing?
I started Colpa with Carissa Potter while working out of Kala. Initially, we had started it as a way to sell our own print work. Then artists started asking us to print for them and work on projects together and that naturally evolved in to what Colpa is today. We try to keep the spirit of that in everything we do. We are a collaborative press.
Carissa and I became interested in publishing while running a bookstore known as Edicola, which was operated out of an old newsstand. We started putting out our own publications around that time and printed a free monthly newspaper distributed at the kiosk.
After closing Edicola, Carissa decided to start her own small press and I left Kala after finding my own studio space in San Francisco’s Mission District. The prospect of building my own print shop was intimidating so I turned to Risograph printing initially because of its affordability and practicality. Then I just fell in love with the process and how you could use it in all these different applications.
3. Could you describe for us what kind of print projects COLPA is involved with? As a publisher, how do you decide which print projects to take on?
Both David and I are artists, so we try to blur the boundaries and prescribed roles between artist and publisher. We start with just asking artists we admire and want to work with. We talk to them about what we love about their work and what we are most interested in. Then we try to come up with a project together and find a printing application or fabrication method that works in tandem with the concept. It is our number one priority that we choose the appropriate technique for each idea.
We tend to work in Riso a lot because the artists we choose naturally gravitate towards it, however, we often take on new ways of production that we are unfamiliar with in an effort to learn new techniques.
Ultimately, when we work with artists it’s important to us to create something new together. We’re not interested in printing a catalog of their old projects.
4. While a major activity is producing and publishing using the Risograph, COLPA also produces art objects, exhibitions and has previously developed a kiosk (Edicola), a monthly newspaper, and films. How do these intersect with your print and publishing practice?
I consider all of our projects editions in some way or another. When David and I want to make something we often work on it together as Colpa. When we want to work on an exhibition or a film series, there is always a printed component such as the artist commissioned posters for the Pasolini festival.
I try to not think about the distinction between these things but how we can approach different projects in a similar way. How can we produce a book series that is an exhibition or an exhibition that is an object? How can we be publishers and artists?
At its core, the word publishing simply means “to make public.” That’s all we really have to adhere to in order to consider a project as publishing.
5. Could you tell us a bit about one of your projects, The Riso Book? How did the idea come about and what were your intentions in producing this work?
The Xerox Book was an exhibition by Jack Wendler and Seth Siegelaub in 1968 that took the form of a book. The book was made exclusively on a photocopier and reproduced as a lithograph, by a group of conceptual artists assembled by Wendler and Siegelaub, including Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt.
We decided to take this basic premise and apply it to a larger geographical area. By traveling around and creating these ‘exhibitions’ we could use it as a small sampling of local artists in an effort to catch a glimpse of the contemporary art community in each city.
6. What’s the biggest challenge you face as a printer and publisher? On the flip side, what’s a memorable moment you’ve experienced at COLPA?
Staying afloat. As much as we try to balance our publishing projects with design and print work, we are always trying to make enough so that we can continue to offer our publishing opportunities and exhibitions at no cost to the artist. This is difficult, especially when working on projects that require more than what we can accomplish in our own studio.
That being said, one of the best moments of the year for me is always the LA Art Book Fair. Knowing that there is a community of people excited about the work that we and other publishers do, on that scale, is really inspiring. I also love walking around and seeing what other people have made and know that we belong to something a bit larger than our tiny studio.
7. Where do you see COLPA in two years? Five years?
Hopefully, doing what we are doing now. I would love to scale up the sort of projects that we make but I also believe that interesting art comes out of necessity and working under constraints. That being said, I would love to offer an honorarium to artists that we work with for every project and upgrade some of our equipment.
Nathalie du Pasquier print by Colpa
8. How have you seen the use of the Risograph impact the graphic arts world? Why do you think some artists, illustrators or designers are attracted to the Risograph instead of other print forms?
I think that printing equipment only becomes realistic for artists once it is obsolete. That is when the price drops dramatically and we can start to look at these machines for not what they do but for what they could do. I think that is an important distinction.Once Risograph machines became affordable there was a resurgence, and I think that accessibility is what makes it collaborative.
We can all share advice, criticism and build a community around something that most people can afford entry to. The fact that you can use what is essentially a copier to make art that is very much hand made is outstanding.
9. What do you think is the future of the Risograph and the work created by this machine?
I’m not sure about the future of Risograph printing. I hope to continue to use it. I think that it is important to constantly evaluate what the most effective way is to communicate our ideas as artists. So if in 30 years that is Riso printing, then I will still use it.
10. Currently you’re based in San Francisco. How’s it like being based there as a publisher, designer, printer and curator?
San Francisco is wonderful and problematic. I think that we have a very productive and critical art scene. I love the art community here, but it is also very difficult to live here due to rising rents and the growing scarcity of space. I try not to focus to much on that and just keep working on the projects I love and the artists I love to work with.
11. Bonus question: Top publishers/printers/designers/artists/studios you’re into at the moment?
- J+L books
- RVB Books
- The Thing Quarterly
- Rhein Verlag
- Container Corps
- Every single artist we have ever worked with… I could seriously go on forever here.