Books

Going Through the Stacks at the 2011 New York Art Book Fair

by Brendan S. Carroll on October 3, 2011

Some books at the New York Art Book Fair (all photos by the writer for Hyperallergic)

Now in its sixth year, the New York Art Book Fair, which takes place at MoMA’s hipper sister in Queens, PS1, from September 30 to October 2, features more than 200 exhibitors from Ireland to South Korea. Presented by Printed Matter, the fair is the world’s premier event for artists’ books, contemporary art catalogues and monographs, art periodicals and artist ‘zines. Exhibitors include international presses, booksellers, antiquarian dealers, artists and independent publishers from around the world. As a person susceptible to panic attacks, it is sensory overload city.

The lobby of the New York Art Book Fair.

How did I make sense of this mass convergence of printed matter?

The simple answer is I didn’t. There is just too much stuff crammed into too little space. Yesterday, as I waded through the dense maze of booksellers, I thought of a crowded subway platform in the dead of summer. The air is hot, muggy and gross. Feet get trampled. Asses get pinched. And the crowd shuffles back-and-forth like the zombies from George A. Romero’s classic film Night of the Living Dead. I saw just as many sodden armpits as books. Frankly, the endurance and wherewithal of the vendors surprise me. If I had to be sequestered in a cramped windowless room for three-days, I’d lose my mind.

The third floor of the fair.

Despite this minor unpleasantness, I enjoyed the fair. It offers lots of eye candy, and I have a sweet tooth. Many exhibitors transform a section of wall or scrap of floor space into engaging temporary exhibitions, which feature paintings, drawings, photographs and neon signage. Below are some of my favorites.

The Schoolyard is a gigantic pop up tent crammed with international artists and zinesters. Butt Magazine has a table in the tent. If you like pictures of naked male construction workers, day laborers, firemen or sanitation workers, this is the place for you. Scott Hug’s K48 is in the tent as well. K48 is publication-as-synthesis, embracing music, fashion, art and design.

The e-flux Book Coop

e-flux’s Book Coop, which is parked in the museum’s courtyard, is a mobile home for publications from over two hundred institutions across the world. If you can’t find it, look for the New Jersey license plate. Established in January 1999 in New York, e-flux is an international network which reaches more than 50,000 visual art professionals on a daily basis through its website, e-mail list and special projects.

We Are The Writing On The Wall is located on the third floor as part of the book fair’s exhibition program. It is a special exhibition of a hundred vintage British Punk fanzines. Expect to find images of Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, UK Subs, Wire and The Exploited and more.

A view of the Polaroids at the REDFOXPRESS stand.

Francis Van Maele has run REDFOXPRESS in the west of Ireland since 2000. In his silkscreen studio he prints limited hand printed editions. He makes his own artist books and publishes a very successful collection of visual poetry and flux named “C’est mon dada.” He has a lovely arrangement of Polaroid photographs pinned to the wall behind his stand.

Book lovers.

John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller is an art gallery and rare bookshop. The gallery exhibits work by a variety of contemporary masters, such as David Levinthal, Brigid Berlin, Peter Dayton, and Mary Ellen Mark. The bookshop emphasizes materials related to 20th century avant-garde movements, from Bauhaus to Punk.

NY Art Book Fair, John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, courtesy of the writer

Founded in 2010 by artist Paul Chan, Badlands Unlimited publishes and distributes eBooks, paper books and artworks in digital and print forms. For this fair, Badlands premiered Poems by Yvonne Rainer, a collection of never-before-published poetry by one of America’s greatest living artists.

A racy item at the John McWhinnie at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller display.

EAI (Electronic Arts Intermix) presents 40 Artists/40 Works/40 years, a screening in the Basement Vault. Founded in 1971, Electronic Arts Iintermix (EAI) is the leaning nonprofit resource for video art. Expect to find rare concert footage of D.C.’s Minor Threat.

Motto started in 2007 as a distribution company for Switzerland, specializing mostly in magazines and fanzines. mono.kultur concept is as beautiful as it is simple: one issue contains one interviewer with one artist, no more no less.

A taste of Bongout.

Bongout is Berlin-based independent artist-run space and art publishing company. Artist duo Anna Hellsgard and Christian Gfeller operation a design studio, a retail store, and a silkscreen atelier. One of my favorite books on sale featured hand-painted movie posters from Ghana.

Since 2007, Lubok Verlag has published orginal graphic books and linocuts by international contemporary artist. Printed in large editions from the original plate on old letterpress machines, Lubok books try to make graphic art available at affordable prices.

James Turrell, "Meeting" (1986)

If you have time, I implore you to revisit James Turrell’s site-specific installation “Meeting.” The work is composed of a square room with a rectangular opening cut directly into the ceiling. As I sat in the room, I watched the clouds overhead unfurl, dissolve, break apart and tumble across the afternoon sky. Like a Quaker meeting room, the chaos of the outside world recedes into the distance as the power of G-d is revealed. And then a baby enters the room to destroy the silence.

The New York Art Book Fair took place at PS1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens) from September 30 to October 2.

  • Subscribe to the Hyperallergic email newsletter!

Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.

Previous post:

Next post: