Let's get right to it: here are my takeaways from the fourth annual Los Angeles Art Book Fair organized by New York nonproft Printed Matter.
Los Angeles Art Book Fair is the West Coast companion to NY's Art Book Fair with books, special edition prints and limited-edition zines galore to ogle. More than 250 exhibitors come from all over the globe — from Spain and Denmark to Israel and Japan — as well as numerous publishing outfits from the United States, including more than 100 from California alone.
Following the successful participation of Spain’s Libros Mutantes in the New York fair, Spain is the first country to have a dedicated Focus Room which will give a boost to the work of independent Spanish publishers – a sector that has undergone a major creative transformation in recent years. The art book, fanzine and photo book are currently experiencing a ‘moment’ in Spain. Taking part in this event helps put Spanish self-publishing on the global map.
The GBLTQ community is represented in all its glory at the LAABF, the zine being a particularly powerful tool for any disenfranchised group that feels it's being misrepresented by mainstream media. Make sure you visit the Original Plumbing stand, an independently produced zine by and for trans men. Other delights include visual artist Adam Seymour who operates under the name Rural Ranga (he's an aussie ginger and they call gingers orang-utans apparently). His debut art book Wank Bank features memoirs of his life as a happy-ending masseur in New York. "Wank Bank was 100% funded by the flicks of my wrist" says Seymour.
Brooklyn-based rare book dealer Arthur Fournier Fine unearths an archive of the Southern California punk zine FER YOUz that hasn’t been shown before. Fournier is displaying the original color masters of the zine, which was produced by photographers Brian and Nikki Tucker in the early 1980s. Meanwhile Los Angeles conceptual artist Allen Ruppersberg has created a record store that features records about records. First, he digitizes obscure works from his own record collection, then he records these onto blank vintage discs that he both displays and sells online as part of a project called the El Segundo Record Club.
Guerilla girls reinventing the ‘f’ word (feminism) is a big theme at this year’s LAABF. Traditionally the zine universe has been considered a masculine domain, but not so any more. Tamara Santibañez produces Discipline which pokes a finger in the eye of heteronormative, capitalist, white supremacist patriarchy by shining a light on the human body, the subtext and the overlooked. She is joined by a gang of other women artists whose work proves that zines are not just for the boys.
East of Borneo is an online magazine and book publisher that documents contemporary art and its history, as considered from Los Angeles. Standout title includes Piecing Together Los Angeles which is the first dedicated collection dedicated to the mother of California architecture writing, Esther McCoy, an historian and witness to the birth of West Coast mid-century design. Another title, Facing the Music, documents Walt Disney Concert Hall and the redevelopment of Downtown Los Angeles.
Grammy award-winning composer, artist, writer, musician and screenwriter Mason Williams made pioneering contributions to California conceptualism in the 1960’s. Presented by Alden Projects, Bus (originally exhibited at the Pasadena Museum of Art in 1967), a 36-ft long silkscreened image of a Greyhound bus, pictured above, is unfurled here. Lifelong friend and sometimes collaborator Ed Ruscha’s work is also on display (e.g. photo novel Crackers). MW’s contributions to LA conceptualism in the 1960’s continue to defy classification.
This year, the fair has also inspired a number of off-site events including nighttime art book parties at the Ace Hotel, an artist reading at the Million Dollar Theater and Sarah Peters' floating library installation in Echo Park, where visitors in pedal boats will be able to check out works to read as they float around the lake. A staff of friendly floating librarians facilitate the check out process and make reading suggestions.
The LA Art Book Fair (Feb 12-14), held at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in DTLA. Listen to my report on Monocle 24 here