Letterpress Mural
Acrylic Paint
Artist Publication Risography on 
Neenah Epic Black Smooth Paper
11” x 17”

Edition of 100
“Mi Igramo Nogomet, Nogomet Igra Nas!”
Eng. “We Play Football; Football Plays Us!”

Public Works Gallery in Chicago approached me in the winter of 2022 with an interest in commissioning new artwork for their exhibit “Fútbol is Life.” I was intrigued by the cultural implications of this exhibition with a critical view of soccer culture.

Soccer plays a pivotal role in enacting national identity, as I experienced growing up in Croatia in the 1990s during the breakup of Yugoslavia. The world’s most popular sport is famously theatrical. In international matches, spectators participate in the tragic defeats and glorious victories of their nations. The nationalist undertones of football fandom have been known to turn violent. The game is not only defined by us; as we get swept up in the hype, we change, and the game can grow to define us.

Based on my conversations with curator Nick Butcher, I wrote an artist publication about my relationship with soccer. I began to draft ideas for a large-scale work incorporating renderings of letterpress-printed typographic forms. I translated my printing experimentations to sign painting, a medium that evokes the street culture and historical renderings of mass messaging in open spaces.

Visiting the language of identity formation, I engaged with the slogan “We Build The Tracks, The Tracks Build Us!” This slogan was used during youth railroad-tracks-building work actions to evoke a sense of federal pride. It became synonymous with the sloganeering culture in former Yugoslavia. Today the words recall another time that reverberates with the present. The strong push and pull between national identities continue to be a defining feature of the region and can be experienced through sport.

Appropriating the slogan, I printed the words using hand-brayered wood type and then used acrylic paint to meticulously paint the printed type at a large scale in the gallery space. By hand painting the type, I preserved the unique qualities of individual letterforms and the organic qualities of line work. The artist publication is displayed hanging to the left of the mural.

The resulting large-scale installation evokes the slogans of a country that no longer exists, once a home of theatrical soccer matches that eventually erupted in violence, foreshadowing the war that was to follow. The installation is accompanied by a risograph printed broadside (click here to read the broadside essay).

December 2022 - February 2023

Photos by Tom Van Eynde