At the end of January Printed Matter hosted the second annual L.A. Art Book Fair, a sister show to the New York Art Book Fair, and it was awesome. Held at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, LAABF has a more spacious feel than its New York counterpart at PS1, yet it shares NYABF’s overwhelming feeling of brainiac activity and does a pretty amazing job of capturing the breadth of what artists’ books are/can be.
I was super impressed by the amount of Los Angeles on display. I hadn’t heard of the L.A. zine group Lokos Only and I was totally blown away by their photo zines, especially TACO, which fluidly blends exceptional on-the-street finds with cars, signage and graffiti. Eve Fowler’s tremendous poster project that gives Gertrude Stein the Colby Printing treatment was on display, as well as an array of rad newsprint editions from Martine Syms’ Dominica imprint. It was a treat to see Andrew from the new &Pens shop, the L.A. incarnation of San Francisco’s Needles and Pens. The Ooga Booga Store was in full effect and they showed off their huge new space for the opening night party with Scott Reeder transforming their gallery into a goofy, honest and dream-like television set.
Like NYABF, the Fair also had an impressive showing of international exhibitors. Fundación Alumnos47 brought a terrific array of independently published work from Mexico and right in the same room you could also find Re:Surgo’s eye-popping silkscreen zines from Germany and Extrapool’s gorgeous risographed books from the Netherlands.
Gorgeous risographed books were the order of the day. Toronto’s Perish Press debuted their new series, Perish Plains, with a volume of collaborative drawings between Patrick Kyle and Michael DeForge. Grand Rapids’ Issue Press brought out their zine vending machine, Book Box, to show off their lovingly crafted pocket editions. There were new titles from Colour Code and Never Press as well, all terrifically designed in hyper-hue colors. Designer Sigrid Calon sold out of her show-stopping volume of sublimely psychedelic geometric patterns based on embroidery and DNA.
Printed Matter debuted their second volume of the collection Queer Zines and brought together an exhibit that offered an exploded view of the book with publications on display spanning over 40 years. One of my few written notes from the weekend was taken from the exhibit: “Hippie Dick: Learn More”.
The living history of queer zines was out on the floor. Everlasting Secret Family had a plethora of homo-fancy print, pulp and ephemera right down the aisle from Goteblüd’s deep trough of fanzine finds. Across the way, Darin Klein and friends had laid out the latest “Box of Books” compilation, an annual anthology of minizines while Christopher Schulz had his superior art/smut zine, PINUPS, assembled into wall-sized posters.
Trying to write a summary of the weekend leaves me with the feeling I haven’t even scratched the surface of what was going on, and that’s exactly what was so exciting about this year’s LAABF- the feeling that an uncountable amount of activity is happening in a multitude of directions. The social atmosphere of the fair was extreme and I got to catch up with a fleet of old pals and also meet a bundle of new friends. By the end of it all I got the feeling that this is also where the book fair’s magic lies – not just the palpable flurry of activity, but the gift of cross-pollinating these ideas in physical space. Invigorating, inspiring and totally overwhelming- LAABF was a pretty incredible book fair.