“I’m going to show you a room you can’t ever film,” Nic Sementa says. He slides open a glowing blue lock on the back door of the graffiti-covered basement design studio at his RGB Lounge. “All these machines are proprietary.”
Inside the Wicker Park co-op design studio/Internet lounge/gallery, which opened in December, a customized giclée printer spits out onto a T-shirt a vivid wall piece by Brooklyn graff crew XMEN with greater detail and more inexpensive color reproduction than traditional garment printers. “We’ve found a way to put a high-resolution image on almost anything,” Sementa says. “We’ve done things as big as 40-by-40 feet, or as small as one inch.”
Thus far, Sementa and his team have worked largely with clothing stores, such as AKINchicago, that want to print high-detail images onto a short run of apparel, and local artists looking to reproduce their work for sale. “Doing a run of reproductions,” Sementa says, “it’s a lot easier to find a few people who can spend $200 on a reproduction than someone who can spend $2,000 on an original.”
At 25, Sementa has already been involved in the development of three businesses: a Lincoln Park B&B; Oak Brook’s Premier Payment Systems (a credit card payment-processing company), which his brother still runs; and the defunct Two Feet Media, which published Big Ten college comedy magazine Boosh. The Chicago native got into the street-art game by printing reproductions for local graffiti artist Tyrue “Slang” Jones, whom he manages.
For $50 a month, RGB members can produce unlimited merchandise at cost—$7 or $8 a T-shirt, for instance, with no minimum order or storage fees. RGB takes a 25 percent cut of in-house sales, but artists keep 100 percent of what they personally sell. Nonmembers can get work printed, too; T-shirt production costs for nonmembers are around $25 per shirt.
Since taking over the Milwaukee Avenue storefront in November, a team of artists gutted and built out the space and installed a curved plexiglass bar in the street-level lounge, which will serve coffee, tea and prepackaged snacks once Sementa secures the proper licensing. A digital graffiti wall in the front window allows tagging using LED-rigged spray cans instead of paint.
RGB Lounge (1420 N Milwaukee Ave, 312-880-7421) hosts an open house Friday 14 at 7pm with art by Christophe Roberts and David “Cove” Gonzalez.