This past weekend, Los Angeles residents and visitors from far afield flocked to the City of Angels for the annual opening of Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair (LAABF) the West Coast companion fair to the NY Art Book Fair. Marking a unique and wide-ranging look at the current status of art publishing and printed material. Free and open to the public, the fair has built a reputation as a leading international gathering for the distribution of artists’ books, celebrating the full breadth of the art publishing community.
Held at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in downtown Los Angeles over three days, the 2019 LA Art Book Fair continues a tradition of expansive perspectives, welcoming an eye-popping 390 exhibitors from 31 countries, including a broad range of artists and collectives, small presses, institutions, galleries, antiquarian booksellers, and distributors. This spectrum of producers makes for a fascinating experience, where DIY tattoos commingle with artist monographs, radical feminist comics share space with limited run record labels, and more, drawing upwards of 35,000 individuals including book lovers, collectors, artists, and art world professionals each year. With a commitment to diversity and representation, the fair also serves as a meeting place for an extended community of publishers and book enthusiasts, as well as a site for dialogue and exchange around all facets of arts publishing.
This year was no different, and the early hours of the fair’s Thursday night preview were packed with an array of diverse visitors and creatives, all browsing the aisles and stands on multiple floors and tiers inside the space to find an interesting text or printed work, emphasizing the fair’s focus on more accessible and affordable formats for art. Even the tickets themselves were emblazoned with a small artistic intervention, a comical and sexually-charged graphic by artist Jeffrey Cheung of Unity Press. Outside, the fair had also curated a series of musical performances by Eartheater, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, and a DJ set by Asmara, curated by record shop Mount Analog.
The range of projects and materials on view was equally diverse, from Hauser & Wirth’s artist books including new publications by Paul McCarthy to a range of books by semiotext(e) to a range of artist books and projects at Pioneer Works. Also of note was a special room featuring Anteism Books and Google’s Artists + Machine Intelligence, showcasing a range of new Machine Learning projects and documentations that made for a striking counterpoint top much of the more distinctly analog materials on view elsewhere in the fair.
All told, the fair’s commitment to its vision and scope underscores its impressive footprint in the city, and its masterful orchestration of a culture so rich in its diversity and output.
The fair ran April 12th – 14th.
— D. Creahan
LA Art Book Fair [Exhibition Site]