LOS ANGELES — Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair (LAABF) at the Geffen Contemporary is bigger than ever this year — with 390 contributors — which might explain why I spent an entire hour wandering the zine section. On Thursday night, a team of Hyperallergic contributors scoured the fair’s vast and truly delightful offerings and picked some of their favorite items to share with you. Check them out below, and if you make it to the fair, don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new Los Angeles art guide — you’ll find stacks of them at the fair’s entrance and at the back of the zine section. —Elisa Wouk Almino
My two favorite items from this year’s LAABF are near opposites. Redfoxpress, whose founders are based in Ireland and South Korea, has an artist book on display that everyone should get a chance to handle. Made in India features bold, screen-printed graphics sourced from ephemera (packaging, maps, leaflets, etc.) collected in India during the ’70s and ’80s. The pages are made of hanji (traditional Korean handmade paper) and bound by a cover of jute and painted wood. Flipping through the pages reminded me of the tactile joy and luxury of books. Sadly, the book was also way above my budget for the fair.
The other item, sold by Jiazazhi Press from China, is a fraction of the price and will fit in a shirt pocket. Packaged in a Shuang Xi brand cigarette box, Thomas Sauvin’s Until Death Do Us Part is a miniature book of found photographs from the eighties featuring cigarette-smoking games at Chinese weddings. It’s the novelty art object for nostalgic former smokers like me. —Abe Ahn
My first stop at the fair was Hotam Press, and it felt like fate. The Vancouver-based publisher only brought one book, titled The Greatest Stories Ever Told, but each copy is in a different language and takes on a different shape. Ho Tam, the founder, wrote the story originally in English, and commissioned translators to render his tales into Greek, French, Arabic, Korean, Tagalog, and many more languages. As a translator myself, I poured over each copy, noting the differing lengths in lines. Each language also gets its own format: the Spanish edition comes as a newspaper, the Arabic as a stack of cards, and the French is delicately rendered in black and white. They are lovely metaphors for the very act of translation: a translated story becomes, in a sense, a new story, assuming a slightly altered character.
I also spent some time with the Chicago-based publisher Public Collectors. In September of 2018, cofounder Marc Fischer began the Public Collectors Courtroom Artist Residency, for which he invites artists to attend courtroom hearings in Chicago and then process what they observed over a meal. We sometimes forget that these hearings are open to the public (most of the time you’ll find the courtrooms largely empty) and the conversations documented in The Courtroom Artist Residency Report series reveal how much we could learn about the American criminal justice system if we physically participated. —EWA
At the booth for Portland’s Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books, I discovered a prime specimen of one of my favorite kinds of books: those dedicated to absurdly specific and arcane subject matter. A Final Companion to Books from the Simpsons, as the title suggests, catalogs every single book, both fictional and real, to make an appearance on the long-running cartoon. It’s a field guide to 30 years’ worth of sight gags, pun titles, and pop culture references. This incredibly niche reference comes courtesy of European publisher Yellow Pages, which appropriately has a .wtf web domain. A great curio for non-watchers of the show, and a must for fans.
And lurking on the DelMonico Books table is David Lynch’s Someone Is In My House, drawing the eye with its spectacularly unsettling cover. Within is an extensive collection of Lynch’s art, photography, and stills from some of his video work. Lynch can imbue mundane street scenes, obtuse sketches, and even photos of lamps (of which there is a whole series) with an ineffable sense of foreboding. A perfect coffee table book for unnerving any guest to pick it up. —Dan Schindel
Issue #3 of the Eye on Design Magazine is called Gossip. It gets at the role gossip plays in the worlds of art and design, while also grappling with the overlaps between gossip and fake news. I gravitated to it because I’ve always felt that art and design criticism are so much more driven by inside knowledge and personal relationships than anyone cares to admit. Emily Gosling’s essay on the New York School quotes a review Larry Rivers wrote, describing Frank O’Hara’s work as “a colorfully decorated gossip column where the content is so obscure you are forced to look for something else to distract yourself.” At the Draw Down Press table.
Brad Feuerhelm’s Soft Touch is a book of vinyl stickers that looks more like a collage of missing persons, made either by a predator or by an amateur private eye. The portraits on the stickers, mostly ripped from magazine, have blurred-out eyes, and captions that say, for instance, “conduct of anonymity of the victim.” It’s creepy, but, unsurprisingly for an art book, sexily minimal in its design. At the Chaco Press table. —Catherine G. Wagley
Printed Matter’s Los Angeles Art Book Fair 2019 continues at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (152 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles) through April 14.
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