Friday, September 29, 2017

New York Art Book Fair

As has been the case for the last few years, I was able to get over to MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens for the annual NY Art Book Fair, one of the largest art-book gatherings in the US. Running for four days, presented primarily by Printed Matter (with a host of sponsors), and featuring over 370 "booksellers, antiquarians, artists, institutions, and independent publishers from 28 countries," to quote the website, it is always a bonanza for arts-based publishing, and the ideal venue to learn about and find books you might not readily encounter elsewhere. I used to go on the first day, but realized the last day--Sunday--is the best for bargains and smaller crowds. The MTA's usual challenges as well as the Sunday travel schedule meant a slightly more involved journey over to Queens, but once there and on the bus, it was a short hop to the venue, which tends to have as many interesting look people milling around outside it as inside.

Street décollage (on the way there)
A vendor in the domed tent 
A vendor and reader
One of many booths
Last year, I made sure to head to Image Text Ithaca's (ITI) booth to sign copies of GRIND, and they were there again this year, with a number of newly published texts. I had the opportunity to chat with some of the students in their MFA program, as well as with photographer, publisher, ITI co-organizer and my collaborator on GRIND Nicholas Muellner. (I'd just missed author, artist, publisher and ITI co-organizer Catherine Taylor, who'd been there for most of the event.) New Directions, which was there in 2015, skipped this year, though I imagine they'll be back next year with some of their new offerings, including new entries in their pamphlet series. This year, I said I would try to visit every floor, and as many of the rooms and booths as I could handle, within a four-hour window, because the building tends to get a bit toasty and so many exhibits become overwhelming. (This is my strategy for BEA and AWP, etc. also.) In addition, I said that I would not load up on books, or no more than I could fit reasonably fit in one book bag, and I stuck to my vow, bringing back lots of cards, but fewer books and works of art than in the past.

The bustling courtyard
One of the vendor areas, off
MoMA PS1's main courtyard 
The geodesic domed tent
A room wallpapered with
images of uteruses
A closeup of the wallpaper 
At a booth where I found some great
photos last year
I'm always fascinated by the mix of vendors at the NY Art Book Fair. You have pretty high end university presses, like Yale, for example, and tiny publishers who clearly are a one-person operation.  Those booths and books are often some of the funnest to check out, because the work often is highly original and a labor of love, though I imagine everyone at the fair wants to at least make back the fees for exhibiting, and to develop regular readers and subscribers (for the magazines and zines). Another publisher I always look for is Song Cave, helmed by poet Alan Felsenthal and others.  As in the past, they were in the geodesic dome, with their trove of new and backlist titles. One especially intriguing book of theirs I picked up was an edited volume of Subcommandante Marcos's writings, Professionals of Hope, with an afterward by Gabriela Jauregui, which read like (some of the best overtly political) poetry and philosophy.

Free posters ("WAS WAR WON")
Art and books and viewers 
This gentleman was selling the
controversial and discredited
Black Panthers Coloring Book,
produced not by the Black Panthers
but by the FBI to discredit them
(the book is actually pretty fascinating)
Photography books for sale
The image I that from a distance
I at first thought was a window!
More photographs for sale
One of the things I've noticed over the last few years is that the vendor base is diversifying somewhat, with more (especially young) artists and publishers of color and queer creative figures. This always means that if I can go slowly enough through the booths and displays I'll find some gems I would not see elsewhere. There are also art exhibits, but I chose to skip most of the freestanding ones this time, and booksignings, which I also skipped unless the artist or writer was there at the table. There probably are readings and conversations. I think I'll try to catch some of these next year, because if I'm in town, I will make every effort to be back!

Aperture's table
In one of the large upstairs rooms
Nathaniel Otting, at left, and
books and zines for days!
Nathaniel and a bookseller,
from the Philadelphia area (though
I think he said he's now in NYC,
but the store is still in Philly) 
Door display
Gregory R. Miller & Co.
He signed a card I bought 
Another room bursting with books of all kinds
Delicious zines!

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