HMCT Profile: Lavinia Lascaris
As an integral member of the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography (HMCT) staff, Exhibition and Graphic Designer Lavinia Lascaris researched, curated and designed MIKE/SIERRA/TANGO, an exhibition exploring multi-script typefaces currently on display at the HMCT through 21 April 2019. With M/S/T open to the public, Lavinia is now focused on designing the exhibition catalog, while working on the next HMCT exhibition, posters by seminal British designer Abram Games OBE, RDI (1914–1996), opening in May.
by Allison Goodman
14 March 2019
Lavinia’s proven dedication to the functions, traditions, conventions, and future of typography merges well with the HMCT’s mission to “elevate and advance the teaching and understanding of both letterform design and typographic practice… in print, digital, and emerging media.”
In person, she moves with the grace of the professional dancer she once was. On screen, Lascaris’ rigid 3D rendering-of-self introduced her “IDIOT” project (a transmedia work created for her graduate thesis at ArtCenter College of Design) with a much different impression of how a body might work.
As a fascinating study in privacy and camouflage, “IDIOT” drops Lavinia’s rendering into ever-increasing complex patterns, until finally she appears (or doesn’t) as the disguising pattern within a security envelope. Her goal was to approach “the notion of concealment and protection through ubiquity… I have given myself over and surrendered my privacy to reinstate it.”
At the other end of “IDIOT’s” concealment spectrum, she offers the base rendering of her self for public use — reappearing in medieval garb, on a bathroom counter, and into tutorials about how to render the human form (a somewhat recursive irony). Here is another form of ubiquity that allows Lavinia to reclaim her own definition of self through selflessly distributing a decoy version.
But there are clues to Lascaris’ personal story on her website: lavinialascaris.com. For instance, there are more than a few references to Greek language and culture (the country where she was born and raised). The “IDIOT” project takes its name from the Greek idiōtēs, meaning a very private individual or citizen. And her “crisis” project concerns, in part, transitioning our connotation of the word as a state of darkness and despair, towards the word’s origin in ancient Greek: krí (decision) + -sis (a suffix to create action). The multi-faceted project acts as “a crossroads through which history and its lessons can be learned.”
Crossroads is, indeed, a key theme in Lascaris’ path to design. From Greece, Lascaris was off to London at the age of 18. There she earned her BFA in fine art and sculpture at Richmond, The American University in London. By 2008 she was in Paris interning at Xippas Gallery. She eventually traveled and worked in India while awaiting a reply to her MFA application to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art. When she didn’t receive the acceptance letter she was hoping for, Lascaris turned her attention toward an earlier love: dance. She eventually landed in Barcelona as a professional Salsa dancer: performing, teaching, and hosting Salsa events. Eventually, Salsa led to an interest in Afro-Cuban dance, and Lascaris became known for introducing that to the dance scene back in Athens with dance partner George Tsionis.
Like many of her young Greek compatriots, Lascaris studied abroad with an eye toward bringing her talents back home. Unfortunately, at the time of her return the Greek economy was facing a prolonged recession. With little support for the arts amidst upended political and social structures, Lascaris continued her creative journey abroad.
Looking back, Lascaris can recount how it was at the crossroads of dance and graphic design that her next steps were decided. As a dancer, she had been creating promotional materials for herself as well as other dancers and artists. Her design practice had expanded but at the same time was limited by a lack of formal training. Dancing, a practice that has a natural lifespan may have been coming to an end, but that endpoint was also an opportunity to transition into a new artistic arena. Lascaris followed her brother to Los Angeles with renewed interest in studying for her Masters Degree, this time in Graphic Design.
After graduating from the ArtCenter College of Design with an MFA in Graphic Design, Lascaris was immediately invited to be the 2018 Typography Fellow at the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography. Since then, she has been appointed to the position of Exhibition and Graphic Designer. As HMCT Executive Director Gloria Kondrup points out, “Lavinia brings a unique and essential knowledge of typography to the design and curation of HMCT exhibitions.”
As Lascaris considers her intensely busy time with the HMCT she sees a continuation of a life connecting global curiosity, dance, and design:
“As a student, I loved learning about design but at the same time was quite worried that I was investing in a future where my brain would be active but not my body. I didn’t think it shouldn’t be an either/or situation. Designing exhibitions is a natural place for me to practice because it is central to considering movement in the design process. The connection for me is moving the body through space, relating one piece of information to another much in the way one dance move leads to the next while maintaining an overall harmony. When successful, an exhibition leads a viewer to experience the entirety of the message.”