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LOS ANGELES — Shannon Michael Cane knows he has big shoes to fill as the new director and curator of the highly anticipated second edition of the Los Angeles Art Book Fair (LAABF). “Taking over the fair from someone like [artist and curator] AA Bronson, who is a mentor to me, is a lot of pressure to see what you can do to improve it,” Cane told Hyperallergic.
A native of Australia, Cane has worked at Printed Matter in New York for the last six years after extensive experience as the independent publisher of They Shoot Homos Don’t They?, a cult classic zine that was part of the surge of queer zine making a decade ago. Cane was invited by AA Bronson back in 2007 to exhibit at one of the first New York Art Book Fairs (NYABF), and he found the experience exhilarating, as he was able to meet his zine and artist-book idols all in one place.
Cane is also a perfect spokesperson for the rise of a scene that is smart, diverse, and global. His enthusiasm for artist books and zines is obvious, and probably comes from his own experience of learning about the power of community through the page. “I’m trying to keep what people love about the fairs that AA produced but slowly putting my spin on it,” he said.
While the New York incarnation of Printed Matter’s popular art book fair has continued to grow, attracting a whopping 27,000 visitors over three days in 2013, the Los Angeles fair is still coming into its own, even if it’s clear that Angelenos are hungry for the event (15,000 people attended last year). Roughly 650 applicants applied for the 260 spots available at the 2014 edition, and the publishers range from blue-chip galleries (including Gagosian) and antiquarian booksellers that have no websites or shops to the $150 zine booths that welcome exhibitors who would probably never have access to such a vast pool of potential readers in any other way.
What binds all these diverse exhibitors and visitors together is a love of books — more specifically, artist books and zines, or as Cane characterizes it, “art for the page.” “Art books are retaliation towards the gallery system,” he explained, adding that people who can’t get gallery shows have often turned to alternative outlets to communicate with an audience. “It was a reaction against the gallery system, as artists said ‘I want something I can give to people — an object but it’s not a catalogue of my work. It’s more than that.’”
But book sellers will not be the only draw this coming weekend, as the 2014 LAABF will also feature an exhibition of queer zines curated by Philip Aarons and AA Bronson, Fabulousity, an exhibition of ephemera and photographs by Alexis Dibiasio about 1980s and ’90s New York club kid culture, a conversation between LA-based artist Piero Golia and Andrew Berardini for the duration of the fair (presented by Gagosian, the entire dialogue will be transcribed in shorthand by a court stenographer), and so much more.
One of popular features of the NYABF that’s coming to LA is the Classroom, which has a full schedule of programming organized by David Senior, bibliographer of the Museum of Modern Art library.
“The Classroom has functioned at the NYABF as a change of pace to the bustle of fair. People can listen for an hour to someone read or an artist’s talk about their practice or a recent work. It also usually has a few zany performances to keep things fun and irreverent,” Senior told Hyperallergic.
“In LA, I’ve sort of followed the same idea. We created a pretty packed program with a lot of different artists and publishers, while also emphasizing the community of people that are out here working with this genre of artists’ publications. And this takes on a wide range — I am excited to hear Martine Syms read from her screenplay Most Days on Sunday, as well as Anna Sew Hoy in discussion with the writer Laurie Weeks. These are some highlights that feature individuals from the LA community.”
Hyperallergic will be reporting from the LAABF all weekend, but until then we’ve compiled a short list of some choice events to check out.
Thursday, January 30
6:30–7:30pm: Donelle Woolford kicks off the 2014 Whitney Biennial (yes, seems random) with a re-creation of Richard Pryor’s 1977 comedy routine from his short-lived TV show.
7–8pm: Artist Jack Pierson signs his latest book, Tomorrow’s Man, Lynn Valley 9, presented by Presentation House Gallery and Bywater Bros. Editions.
Friday, January 31
1–2pm — Women’s Center for Creative Work (WCCW) leads a casual conversation (which I guess means it is non-hierarchal) about the use of the word “feminism” and why people shy away from it.
4–5pm — Artist Laura Owens will be in conversation with Ooga Booga’s Wendy Yao about their recent book collaborations. Owens is one of those rare artists who has fully integrated artist books as an important part of her body of work.
Saturday, February 1
11am — Dynasty Handbag, the performance-arty-leotardation-comedy-psychic-meltdown-voiceover-stretchpants/antipants-lezbiananationalarmy vehicle of Jibz Cameron, will put on a show that is sure to raise questions about the role of art and comedy … and probably make you laugh out loud.
2–3pm — Psychologist Dr. Alan Castel will discuss his research on human memory and why we remember some things while choosing to forget others. Related to the release of Michael Schmelling’s Land Line from J&L Books, Castel will also discuss metamemory (our thoughts about our own memory) and its influence on memory.
3–4pm — Johan Kugelberg, an author/curator and proprietor of Boo-Hooray, will discuss the problems and possible solutions of archiving counter-culture narratives. Kugelberg has created university archives for Yale, Cornell, Oxford, and Columbia on punk, hip-hop, May 68, Living Theatre, Larry Clark, and Angus MacLise, among others. He is currently working on the Printed Matter archive.
Sunday, February 2
1–2pm — Martine Syms‘s “Most Days” is what what she calls a “Mundane Afrofuturist sound work” that will be released on vinyl next month. The piece by an artist who considers herself a “conceptual entrepreneur” looks at “what an average day looks like for a young black woman in 2050 Los Angeles.” She will be reading from her sci-fi anti-adventure.
1–3pm — Artists and special surprise guests will read from More Than You Wanted to Know About John Baldessari (eds. Meg Cranston and Hans Ulrich Obrist), a new two-volume publication from JRP | Ringier. This event requires an RSVP, which you can do here.
3–4pm — Aram Saroyan is most famous for his minimalist poem “lighght,” which caused NEA-related controversy back in the 1960s, and his four-legged “m” poem, which was cited by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s shortest poem. He will be launching the second edition of his Complete Minimal Poems, which collects his renowned works into one definitive volume. Saroyan will give a rare reading of these works at the LAABF.
Hyperallergic is a media sponsor of the LA Art Book Fair.