LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles has a new art book fair, though it insists on being called a “market.” It’s called Acid-Free, in honor of the paper used to print and preserve precious designs and images. The event, of which Hyperallergic is a media sponsor, launched Friday evening at Blum & Poe, though the cool and open layout of the bookstands did make it feel less like a blue-chip gallery than a market. Taking New York art book fairs as a comparison point — where sellers are well used to the drill, crowds, and attention — publishers here in Los Angeles seem eager to share their projects and engage their audience, perhaps because there are fewer opportunities like this one.
Many of the exhibitors at Acid-Free have participated in the Printed Matter LA Art Book Fair, which this year, to the dismay of many, was canceled “because of the profound impact of [Michael Cane] Shannon’s passing” — a central member of Printed Matter’s staff — and because their usual venue, the Geffen Contemporary, was unavailable. When local publishers learned this was the case, they scrambled to find an alternative to nevertheless get together and show their work. The result was Acid-Free.
While Acid-Free expanded to include a few international exhibitors, the focus of the stands is still on the West Coast and in talking with the organizers — almost all of whom have a booth — the project feels very much driven by local pride.
In addition to the 70 exhibitors that snake through Blum & Poe’s two floors, there is also robust programming throughout Saturday and Sunday. Pop into the “TV Room” for ongoing screenings, featuring films by Agnes Varda, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Martine Syms, and others. And check out the series of talks and readings, which includes a conversation on queer publishing this Saturday evening and another on Sunday with curators Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and Ruth Estevez, who will discuss their use of “radical texts” in mounting their respective exhibitions for Pacific Standard Time last year. (Fajardo-Hill co-curated the acclaimed Radical Women: Latin American Art show that is now at the Brooklyn Museum, while Estevez curated the Léon Ferrari at Redcat.) As Fajardo-Hill explained to Hyperallergic, “Both exhibitions were the end result of deep archival research into areas and art forms that were not very explored.”
For those of you who need some guidance, or would simply like a sneak peek first, below are some booths that we think are worth stopping by.
Eggy Press, based out of Berkeley and San Francisco, describes itself as “a group of friends making art for you and me. Forever.” Their books are fun and personable. My favorite was Maxim Fun! by Eva Gibeau, a journal-like response to “a frustrating year.”
The Mexico City-based press Gato Negro has some of the most attractive and harmonious books at the fair. They sell both Spanish- and English-language projects, as well as purely visual ones, including their fresh-off-the-press title, Rebeca. For this photo book, people were asked to make “sexy poses” alone for a camera. And it turns out that people have similar conceptions of what “sexy” means, as many repeated the same seductive gestures and expressions.
Sming Sming Books
Sming Sming Books was only founded in 2017, and operates out of California at large, printing projects along the West Coast. The fascinating title White Gaze, by artist and filmmaker Michelle Dizon, takes archival images from the National Geographic — which recently apologized for its racist coverage in the past — and redacts parts of the accompanying texts, creating critical poetry described as a “decolonial counterpoint.” The works from the book are also currently on display at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
East of Borneo
Stacey Allen cofounded the online magazine East of Borneo with Thomas Lawson (then the dean of the School of Art at Cal Arts) in 2010 after moving to Los Angeles from New York and discovering there was so much Los Angeles art that wasn’t studied or well known. In addition to publishing thoughtful online essays, the publication also has a few print projects on display — and one delightful T-shirt. It depicts a Los Angeles, Hollywood Hills-wandering “Nature Boy” — an early hippie — in 1945. The magazine has a whole essay dedicated to the topic by Adam Overton.
Women’s Center for Creative Work
The Women’s Center for Creative Work was only founded in 2013 but it has already made quite the mark on the Los Angeles feminist art community. What began as a series of “women’s dinners” has since expanded into a host of workshops, residencies, events, and art criticism sessions. On display at Acid-Free are two of its most recent titles: a guide for “Making Art Under Fascism” and A Feminist Organization’s Handbook, which lays out the Women’s Center’s history as well as how it works economically and administratively. Their goal, they say, is to provide “an exportable model of our organization … in hopes we might benefit others organizing and producing in similar ways.”
And for those who can’t make it to the Acid-Free Book Market at all, here are a few more photos to enjoy of the displays:
Correction: A previous version of this article did not state that Thomas Lawson had founded East of Borneo. This has been updated.