LA Art Book Fair 2017 (LAABF2017) Review - Community, Unity Drawn by Art and Art Makers


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The LA Artbook Fair, LAABF2017 presented by Printed Matter opened it’s 5th year at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in downtown Los Angeles with preview held on Thursday, February 22.  LAABF2017 will run through Sunday, February 26.  More details on the fair here.

Not failing to disappoint, the array or artists made books and projects provide hours of perusing, engaging, choosing and experiencing a host of worlds and thoughts limited only by minds and imaginations.

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LA Art Book Fair began in 2013 with an expectation of 5,000 attendees. LAABF2017  is expected to draw between 35,000 and 40,000 attendees over three and a half days. Offerings are available from 350 exhibitors joining together from 30 countries. The fair is curated by Printed Matter’s Shannon Michael Caine.  The exhibition space is coordinated and managed by Jordan Nassar also of Printed Matter.

preview night. (photo credit-mark s. gross)

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Artbook fairs for me are like opera and ballet with each production of the same story having its own setting, movement, variations, interpretation and awe. Startling this year is the evidence of unity glued together by art making, art consuming and the art curious community.  The only division at the fair are the small spaces between tables and walkways throughout hundreds of exhibitions. Like live stage productions each interpretation of an art book fair brings new life and new witness to a spectrum of creativity that arcs as far as the eye can scan or contemplate. 

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It is here at the art book fair that imagination, purpose, responsibility and passion make their way to a written word, book, zine, poster, t-shirt, tote bag, cascading zine.  Where unconceived dimensions of thoughts land on three-dimensional surfaces for an estimated 35,000-40,000 people over the weekend who can absorb and interact all dimensions of artist creations and visions.

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When I visit an art book fair I do not single out picks or recommendations. It is unfair to highlight anyone in this community of hard workers and believers. It is the ubiquitous presentation that makes the fair and the community.  Makers and users.  Supporters and inventors. Parents. Spouses. Partners. Family. Friends. Neighbors. All who help the artist, the maker manage their booth for the packed three and a half days at the GEFFEN CONTEMPORARY at MOCA in downtown Los Angeles. 

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There are relevant political projects ad conversations but nothing is overwhelmingly out of place. Put on by Printed Matter of New York and curated by Shannon Michael Caine LAABF2017 seems to be a tight and carefully chosen presentation of today's contemporary art book-makers and small press representatives.

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There are familiar faces. From years past. From other fairs including New York Artbook Fair, I never Read Book Fair in Basil and Tokyo Artbook Fair. It is startling to witness these faces from other places who spread their viral and contagious passion that could serve as an example on the streets outside the walls of the exhibition space.

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louis shcmidt (photo credit-mark s. gross)


Art makers don’t use this time to make flashy statements or single out their voices outside of their art. They use this time for presence, continuity, and sustainability of how they present themselves and magnify their voices mostly through their work all year long.

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The art book fair with its presenters and visitors are what I call uni-gender or uni-ethnic.  People engage by voice, interest, eye contact and curiosity. They gather as one driven by what is on the table or in the booth in front of them. Strangers explain to strangers. Passersby recommend to passersby and artists to the left and to the right of each other share what they have seen and point in all directions.

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The art makers have traveled here. From Berlin.  From China. From Mexico. From Japan. From New York and Canada. From New Orleans and Paris. From other places.  They bring their art on planes, in cars, on trains. They ship and schlep.

It is like a family reunion between art makers and visitors.  “I saw you last year.”  “Remember me?”  Hey, how are you, When did you get in?”

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It is difficult not to recognize metaphors here. The voices are expansive. The work is inclusive. There are few boundaries and there is motivation and support to go outside the pages and out of the boxes. To try. To experiment. To create. To be comfortable and know the work is encouraged and welcome. There are photocopied pages and expensive press pages. Rare books.  Gallery editions.

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accordian zines from improper printing-billy ocallaghan (photo credit-mark s. gross)

Art makers here may not make a lot of money. Some hope to cover their costs. Some will do better than others but each sale whether $2 or $2,000. comes with a receipt of passion and encouragement. Belief in the art that they are making and sharing it.  Providing another stitch in a widening community of individuals and creators where there is no division, no judgment and the expectation that this effort and work will be sustaining and comforting.

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Free and open to the public, Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair is a unique event for artists’ books, art catalogs, monographs, periodicals, and zines presented by over 300 international presses, booksellers, antiquarians, artists, and independent publishers. Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair 2016 saw over 35,000 visitors over the course of three and a half days. Printed Matter’s LA ART BOOK FAIR is the companion fair to Printed Matters New York Art Book Fair, held every fall in New York. In September 2016, over 39,000 artists, book buyers, collectors, dealers, curators, independent publishers, and enthusiasts attended Printed Matter’s NY ART BOOK FAIR.

Founded in 1976, Printed Matter, Inc. is the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination, understanding, and appreciation of artists' books and related publications.

First established in Tribeca by Sol Lewitt and Lucy Lippard (among other important artists and art workers) Printed Matter was developed in response to the growing interest in publications made by artists. Starting in the early 60s, many of the pioneering conceptual artists (as well as performance, process, environment, sound and other experimental media artists) began to explore the possibilities of the book form as an artistic medium. Large-edition and economically produced publications allowed experimentation with artworks that were democratically accessible, affordable, collaborative, and could circulate outside of the mainstream gallery system. Printed Matter provided a space that championed artists' books as complex and meaningful artworks, helping bring broader visibility to a medium that was not widely embraced at the time. 

Come visit the LAABF2017 this weekend.  Bring a friend. A family member. An acquaintance and take the time to be I a community of creativity and encouragement where everything is available to engage with, interact with and be with.

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Hours and Location

Preview: Thursday, February 23, 6–9 pm

Printed Matter’s LA ART BOOK FAIR, free and open to the public:
Friday February 24, 1pm-7pm
Saturday February 25, 11am-7pm
Sunday February 26, 11am-6pm

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-6222
MOCA website


Photos: Mark Sanford Gross


For more information, call (212) 925-0325 or write
[email protected]

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