Greg and I went down to LA last Friday for the LA Art Book Fair at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. This art fair is put on by Printed Matter and is a companion show to the NY Art Book Fair; 2013 was the first year in LA.
Afterwards, we agreed that the show was well worth the trip. There was a lot of interesting photography, book history, and art. The venue was very nice. The vendors were divided into sections so there was a sense of discovery around corners and a reduced sense of being in a warehouse common to many large shows. In addition to spending the day looking at books and zines, I really enjoyed meeting – in person - several artists that I have previously ”met” through email mailing lists and blogs, among them Susan Mills, Ellen Ziegler and Heidi Neilson.
[From Heidi Neilson's Fake Snow Collection]
LA Art Book Fair is not a fair of artists’ books. There were a few artists with artists’ books, such as those mentioned above, but most of the vendors were publishers and distributors of books and most of the books were SPOD or produced and printed through a printing-house. I left feeling disappointed that there were not more artists present, in particular because I wanted to be able to ask them more about their work.
Many of the books suffered from the sheer volume of books which began to look alike. There were tables full of books filled with series of photos that left us asking “so what?” and many books that would have benefitted from editing. The current SPOD publishing market is a great democratizer, anyone with an idea can make a book, an important and interesting development for artists. But going to a show like this reminds you that just because you can doesn’t mean someone else will care. So here’s a question – do we as artists need someone else to care about or buy or even look at our work? Or is making it enough?
A widespread theme at the art fair was genitalia. Books, jewelry, drawings, photographs – I understand the importance of sex and so-called taboo body parts to surprise, disturb, educate and make a point in art. Unfortunately a lot of the work we saw just felt like an adolescent fascination with trying to shock people rather than mature art with something to say.
One of the strengths of the LA Art Book Fair was the number of art journals and art theory books and art monographs. There are several art journals and art survey magazines that I’d never seen before. It was inspiring to see so much support for current art. We bought several art-related books from Ridinghouse, ARTBOOK, n+1 , and Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books. Among the books we brought home are Anya Gallaccio, The Curator’s Egg: The evolution of the museum concept from the French Revolution to the present day by Karsten Schubert, I like your work: art and etiquette edited by Paper Monument, Sol Lewitt: Artists Books, and The Disciples by James Mollinson.
Another strength of the fair was the display of historically important art, art books and artists’ books. The venue featured many wall displays, comparable to a gallery, with works by artists including Yoko Ono, Kara Walker and Ed Ruscha.
[A rare copy of Grapefruit by Yoko Ono]
The fair had a large area set aside for Zines. To be honest I’ve had very little exposure to Zines and it was educational to wander the hall and talk to the vendors. In the Zine World it seemed like more of the vendors were the artists themselves rather than just publishers. Much of the work shown was geared toward a very specific audience or subculture and while I didn’t understand or “get” some of it, it was an interesting and appealing. One of my favorites was a curatorial journal published biennially titled, ”Lovely Daze.” From their website “The selection of works is based on concepts, techniques and aesthetics in relations to the topics of each issue…”
More detailed posts on a few highlights later.