Printed Matter's LA Art Book Fair is an explosion of unexpected, beautiful, and far out print works crammed into a labyrinth of booths and rooms at the Geffen Contemporary space. Each section revolves around a format, like rare book dealings, handmade zines, or publishing houses; and within these categories, the formats are playfully explored and challenged. What this event really boils down to is talented and visionary folks pushing the limits of design in print, and an opportunity to soak up some of their passion and inspiration for a few hours.
We attended the fair with a loose game plan to find 10 booths that really gave us a jolt of inspiration, and then find out what piece they were most excited about sharing.
Front and center on Edition Muta’s table was a wooden box containing a fine white linen shirt, a book, and a USB drive. The piece celebrates Luis Buñuel, the prolific surrealist filmmaker/firearms enthusiast, and his attempts to make a low charge bullet that would comically slide off a shirt at impact. During testing, the bullet went right through the wall. Edition Muta picked up where Buñuel left off, working extensively with a ballistics lab to actually create this low-charge bullet. Buñuel’s son Rafael lent a shirt for replication – and they documented this successful bullet firing on film.
When Yusuke Tsukamoto, an LA-based graphic designer and illustrator (also known as Katsuo Design), first met Nathaniel Russell, an illustrator out of Indiana, the two became fast friends and found a spontaneous connection with parallels and crossovers in eachother’s work. Through long distance exchanges of drawings they created a free form zine called “Open Stoke”. “It’s about how two people can align in one visual language,” Yusuke explains. There’s nothing tortured about these two artists. The neon colored zine is rooted in optimism, inspiration, and the positive aspects of being alive.
In the hanger-sized zine room, Justin Apperley’s recent work, “Freeze up Break up”, was on display on the Rock Bottom publishing table. You’d be hard pressed to find a more positive, genuinely happy person than Justin. This twenty-something took the-road-less-traveled and ended up living near Dawson City, Yukon for the past few years. On the east side of the Yukon River lays a town with all amenities you need, “bars, food, friends,” Justin explain. On the west side, there’s “cabins, huskies, and nothingness.” This is the place Justin calls home. For part of the year he’s able to get to town by ferry, but for a few months the river ices over and he’s cut off from an already cut-off place. Justin’s zine, filled with photos and collages of his time in true wilderness depicts a period of beauty and creative growth within this isolation.
Inventory Press, an NYC art book publishing house, was very excited to share “Public Collectors” by Marc Fisher. The book itself is a collection of cultural artifacts – forgotten pieces of graphic design and art that have fallen through the cracks. It’s a commentary on collecting materials that lack conventional monetary or cultural value. On another level it speaks to the hoarder impulse that's alive in society, and the desire to allow these pieces to see the light of day in this collection.
It’s hard to miss Candice Hicks’ “Super String Theory”, an enormous handmade book that took a full year to make, with every word and illustration entirely hand-stitched onto the cotton pages. In this funny account about progression and details of coincidence, Hicks explores the philosophical thought of quantum mechanics and string theory, all with a needle and thread. This book is 1 of 1, and costs $6,400.
McNair Evans, a San Francisco-based photographer, suffered the loss of his father in the early 2000’s followed by the blow that he had bankrupted the family agriculture business. Ten years later, and still with a bad taste in his mouth, Evans returned home to Laurinburg, NC to retrace the steps of his father, what happened to the business, and who this man was. The story and the package of “Confessions for a Son” are both beautiful and artful. There’s great attention to detail: the reproduced hand-written notes between his parents tucked alongside family photos, the golden mustard pages set behind a rich burgundy cover. The whole package is a beautiful exploration in printing.
Tucked in a room off the side, a lively crowd filled around Mina Stone’s long table, eating cured olives and other dishes from her recent cookbook. Mina, an art school graduate based in NYC, has spent the last few years as a private chef for artists like Urs Fischer and Gavin Brown. Her favorite part of cooking for artists is the freedom to experiment. Her book, “Cooking for Artists”, documents this experience with original photos and recipes.
Benjamin Critton, a gifted graphic designer from Brooklyn, had a consistent gathering around his half booth throughout the show. There were no bells and whistles to his works or display, just exceptional design and great enthusiasm and storytelling around each project. When I asked him what his favorite item was, he held up an issue of Candide - the only peer reviewed architectural journal. Critton took this academic journal and broke it into five sections with five covers and bindings bound together, taking an extensive amount of information and content, and make it palatable with good design.
Paper Chase is a family-owned print and publishing house on Sunset Blvd in LA. They recently launched Paper Cuts, handpicking their illustrious clients to design print pieces – stationary, sketchbooks, luggage tags, etc. For a nominal fee, customers can customize the product to be their own. Featured were notebooks from Commune Design and Clare Vivier’s postcards.
The night ended with tracking down Tauba Auerbach of Diagonal Press after seeing her metal pins popping up over and over. The pins are designed from stroke styles, typefaces, the bindings of books, and even the design of Japanese chain mail. Her work is esoteric and humorous, a winning combination.