Upon entering Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair at the Museum of Modern Art Ps1 for the first time, I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer size of the event, with room after room of books, publishers, and artworks. The program alone, with its long list exhibitors, was enough to make my head spin. But after doing a quick walk-through of the space and learning a bit about the different rooms in this old public school building, I ventured towards the domed, white tents outside.
Having arrived somewhat early, I witnessed the bustling energy of people setting up their tables and preparing for the night ahead. If you do end up at the NY Art Book Fair this weekend, I highly recommend checking out the following tables and their incredible zines.
The Press Press table is off in its own room, right across from the Dome, where some of the other zines are located. I was immediately compelled by the independent publisher’s story because of their dedication to working with immigrant communities. Founded by Kimi Hanauer in 2014, Press Press’s mission is to give a voice to those who have been suppressed or misrepresented, focusing primarily on immigration.
The project began when Hanauer started to volunteer at the Refugee Youth Project (RYP) in Baltimore, teaching ESL creative writing workshops. The four core members of Press Press — Hanauer, Bomin Jeon (whom I spoke with), Valentina Cabezas, and Bilphena Yahwon — continue to work with the RYP, along with refugee and immigrant communities in their home base of Baltimore, primarily. Contributors to their zines include those immigrant communities, friends, and “random people [who] hit us up,” said Jeon. Jeon described their publishing process as “very collaborative.” The work that Press Press is doing seems particularly important at this moment in time.
Over in the zine tent is a group called the Mujeristas Collective. Founded by Stephanie P. Aliaga in January 2017, the Collective’s mission is to provide a platform for Latinx women to share their art. I spoke with Denisse Juliana Jimenez and Yovanna Roa-Reyes, who told me that as a group, they feel strongly about feminism and inclusivity for women of color, and through their zines, they hope to feature the voices of women of color, particularly Latinx women, who are their main consumers.
Right next to the Mujeristas Collective table is a table for The Oxnard Plain Press, a small press of zines and artist books founded by Jaime Bailon five years ago. Bailon got started by printing his own artist book and found that the process was “easy and cheap,” so he bought a Xerox printer and began to publish both his own zines and the zines of other artists. “There was no real way to show my work that I felt satisfied with,” said Bailon. “I also realized there wasn’t a way for other people to.” From there, Bailon created a collective with his studio partner, Brian Paumier, and they began to offer mentorships and community critiques. Also at the table with Bailon was artist Jack Adams, who was selling his first-ever zine thanks to Oxnard Plain.
#BLKGRLSWURLD describes itself as “a music zine for women who rock.” Founded by Christina Long and her younger sister Courtney Long, #BLKGRLSWURLD came into being, according to Christina, because “people are always telling us there are no women of color interested in metal.” The zine aims to expose the world to the fact that heavy metal music is diverse, said Christina. The press is based in Harlem, and their zine reports primarily on the New York City metal scene, though Christina says some of the best underground music can be found in the suburbs and on Long Island.
I was initially drawn to the Ink Cap Press table by their offer of free basil with every zine purchase. Ink Cap Press, however, is much more than free basil. They are a group of activists (Kimberly Enjoli, Essye Klempner, Thompson Harris, and Babbie Dunnington) who came together to make protest art and print that art in zines.
They are Black Lives Matter activists, anti-capitalists, and so much more. “Equality is at the heart of our activism,” said Dunnington. They’ve been printing art for two years, but the zine is new, and according to Harris, they’re an “ad-hoc mixture of radical activism hybridized with art.” I purchased a zine of migration poems by Abby Rojas, but their zines were varying and multifaceted, covering a large scope of issues.
Continuing in the vein of political activism is Cassandra Press, a zine publisher rooted in the origin story of Cassandra, the Greek mythological figure whose prophecies were never believed. I spoke with Taylor Doran, one of the founding members of Cassandra Press, who told me that the group, which consists of herself, Jordan Nassar, and Kandis Williams, “wanted to have a space for lo-fi political activism.” They are based in New York and Los Angeles, and their zines are by all different artists. They also publish what they call “Readers,” which Doran told me is “like a college reader” on topics such as misogynoir and PTSD.
A press that immediately drew me to their table, covered in pink and purple with Rihanna pins and fanny packs that read “DESTROY ALL MEN WHO ABUSE THEIR POWER,” was The Bettys. When I first arrived at the table, the founder, Aurora Diaz, had stepped away, but something told me to come back, as this was a collective that seemed worth talking to. And sure enough, it was.
Diaz founded The Bettys six years ago as an art collective for “non-male artists.” Five years ago, Diaz published her first zine and realized that she was looking for a platform for underrepresented artists, so she decided to create her own.
The Bettys are based in northern New Jersey, and the artists they publish all come to the collective through invitation or pitches, and more importantly, the Bettys pay an honorarium to the artists, funded through the sale of merch.
Each zine has a specific theme, with the most recent one being “Fruit.” Others include “Roses,” “Space Bar,” “Girl Paradise,” and “Feeling Myself.” The Bettys is definitely a table worth checking out.
Finally, as a cat person myself, I couldn’t help but stop at the table covered in cat art. Homocats started in 2010 as a series of political cat memes. “It’s all my own drawings,” said founder J. Morrison. When I asked why cats, Morrison responded, “I’m like a crazy cat lady,” at which point I showed him my own cat tattoo. Homocats publishes an annual zine filled with art and commentary such as, “We are disgusted with American ideals,” and “We are tired of homophobia.” Morrison said he has found that “animal lovers tend to be more political because they care more.” Homocats will be at the NY Art Book Fair all weekend and at DragCon next weekend, so be sure to check them out.
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