The New York Art Book Fair Is Still a Sweaty Sauna
I've covered Printed Matter's New York Art Book Fair since 2012. Each year it's grown and changed—except for this year, when it didn't.
All photos by the author.
While attending the annual New York Art Book Fair, I ran into illustrator Matt Crabe. He mentioned that he liked the opening to my coverage of last year's book fair in which I said, "I've covered Printed Matter's New York Art Book Fair every year since 2012, and each year it's grown and changed—except for this year, when it didn't. This year's NYABF was almost exactly like last year's." And then he added that the latest NYABF was exactly like the fairs of the previous two years. He was right, with one exception: It's grown incrementally hotter. The only thing visibly changing at the New York Art Book Fair is the climate.
Here's the view of the fair as you enter MOMA PS1. There's a line to pay too much for drinks, a big white dome that is not too hot, a former school that was turned into a museum that is very hot, and a sweltering zine tent that may have been created to help induce visions.
Here's what I saw in the big dome.
The Hamburger Eyes photo zine is always good and, as always, it was sold out before anyone got a copy.
Chains are getting overused as a design element.
It's a shame because I love a good chain, but it's getting lazy.
Another trend I found tiring were books whose intended impact seemed to be, "Can you believe this exists? Now buy it!" These books were made by buying CDs full of images of specific topics from a single eBay seller and then publishing them as books. When looking at a paper product of any kind, it's good to ask yourself, "Is this book better than the tree that was cut down to produce it?" Sometimes the answer is "yes," but often it is "no."
I loved the Miniature Garden table. I wanted to buy the whole table and drag it home with me so I could keep staring at it. I found it calming.
Bootleg T-shirts that relied on references to popular things were ever-present.
The 8 Ball Zine Zone was too crammed with people, so I couldn't get a good look at their wares.
I headed up the stairs towards the big old school-seum with the intention of buying the same delicious jerk chicken meal I'd eaten last year.
Sadly, this year M. Wells fucked up the jerk chicken. Almost every time I eat meat lately, I find myself disgusted. The chicken was crispy on the outside and had a good color, but the inside was slimy. It's rare for PS1's meals to disappoint.
Inside PS1's main building there were the regular urban attention-seekers. This is David Henry Nobody, Jr.
This was the absolute hottest room in PS1. I think it was presented with an award for how inhospitable it was. The heat and lack of ventilation really was the theme this year. You'd see people trepidatiously peer around the entrances to rooms and then relax and enter as they noticed an open window or turn around and leave as they felt the oppressive heat surround them.
As with the last two years, my favorite exhibitor was Vasta Books. Somehow they're the only people who figured out that people will pay a lot for vintage dirty magazines.
I bought this one. "Aggressive women who demand to meet you!" It's like a chauvinist's nightmare, or a good businesswoman's slogan.
I like this Whip 'N Rod magazine logo. So many great logos on these old porns.
Will we ever be capable of creating beauty at this standard again? How do we relearn the level of craft that perverts of yesteryear had at their fingertips?
Vasta was also selling this great accordion vagina ghost paper sculpture that unfolded into a series of scrims that show the moist horror inside a vagina.
I thought these two figures were 69ing at first. Also: black power isn't the same as white power, not even a little.
I thought there would be more anti-Trump stuff on display. There was some, but there wasn't notably more political work on display than in previous years. This kinda reminded me of other art bodegas that Freeman & Lowe and Lucy Sparrow made.
This room was wallpapered with paintings of ovaries. This might seem stupid if it was described aloud, but the actual room and the ovary paintings were all very pretty.
Devin Troy Strother is a pretty big name so it was funny to see him seated next to a bunch of interns in the large room where all the magazines try to hustle you to subscribe. He was there selling the products of his company, Coloured Publishing. I bought this zine and he signed it "Much Love From A Black Guy!" It's cool to see people discussing reparations for black people in America. Maybe it will actually come to pass someday.
I enjoyed the lady on the right's facial expression.
People sat around in the James Turrell room as an excuse to get off their feet. It was a pretty neat installation. With everyone sitting on a bench that lined the wall in a not-too-hot room, it was like a reverse-sauna.
Big ups to art star and illustrator Heather Benjamin. Always good, always Benj.
Big ups to Ooga Booga, always good.
After darkness fell, I finally ventured into the zine tent where the younger, less established, and poorer artists were crammed like rats in a cage. I was told that PS1 had allowed less exhibitors in this year. I commend them for that if it's true.
This is Panayiotis Terzis, who I went to art school with. We both sort of aged into a couple of handsome Homer Simpsons. Panayiotis was always a printmaking man and he made some beautiful risograph prints which rely on zero references to the art world or pop culture. I respect that, in a room full of people trying to sell things that relied on references, Panayiotis Terzis is producing his own worlds on paper, not just borrowing from other people's.
This is Jo Rosenthal, who made all the zines she's displaying in this photo. The one at the far end is a series of unwelcome and clumsy come-ons from men trying to throw some game her way. The one on the cover is the most audacious, and it's from the guy who repaired her phone at the Apple store and then used her account info to contact her. She didn't censor any of their names, numbers, or e-mails, so you can contact all the men in this zine if you want. One apparently found out and threatened to sue her. I thought this was pretty cool.
Each year I like Alicia Nauta's work more and more.
Alicia Nauta makes a lot of new and different stuff and I always find it refreshing to see what she's making. Her work is heavily atmospheric and she's trying new things compositionally, texturally, and tonally. She never phones it in or relies on lowest common denominator tricks. I really admire her as an artist and love getting to look at her work.
Matt Crabe made a zine called I'll Be Back, which is photos of people in Terminator 2 costumes. It's a simple idea, but every page made me laugh. I give this a thumbs up.
I thought this would be a fake Fotomat. But Mono No Aware were actually selling rolls of film and 35mm cameras, and doing 24-hour developing for the weekend. This was a good thing but what I wanted most was a little Lionel Train-scale model of the booth itself.
This is V. Vale, perhaps the most important person at the NY Art Book Fair, as he was last year. He created the Search & Destroy zines and RE/Search Publications, which were like a light in the darkness for oddballs in the pre-internet days. Vale is a cultural engineer and most of people at the fair were riding the cultural caboose.
Vale presented me with a photocopied manifesto called "GOALS OF LIFE." Now I present it to you, too. Vale is a kind man and although this piece might seem overly pessimistic or critical, the people at the NYABF were all enthusiastic and kind.
Here's my haul photo. Thank you to everyone who gave me their zines and objects.
Goodnight New York Art Book Fair. I hope to see you next year.
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