Artists’ books, hand-stitched zines, irresistible prints in painfully limited editions — oh, my! Printed Matter’s Art Book Fair is one of the most anticipated affairs in the New York City, and more recently, Los Angeles art worlds. Like most awesome and typically densely-populated things, this year’s edition will be held entirely online due to the pandemic.
The good news: thanks in part to this virtual format, Printed Matter has rolled its LA and New York fairs into one, making it the largest event yet, and the most international. More than 400 exhibitors from over 4o countries — from rare booksellers and small presses to major museums and institutions — will unveil their virtual tables when the fair goes live at 4pm EST this Wednesday, February 24.
Kicking off on February 24, the Printed Matter Virtual Art Book Fair (PMVABF) runs through Sunday, February 28 and is completely free. Below, check out a slate of exhibitors you won’t want to miss — remember, they need our support now more than ever.
The Black School (TBS), the experimental institute that educates Black and POC students in radical Black politics through art and design, has hosted over 100 workshops since its founding in 2016 and touched the lives of hundreds. Last year, TBS co-founders Joseph Cuillier III and Shani Peters launched a fundraiser to build a schoolhouse in New Orleans’s historic Seventh Ward neighborhood, Cuillier’s hometown. Proceeds from the sale of the organization’s official magazine, created in collaboration with St. Hope Leadership Academy and Sugar Hill Children’s Museum for Art and Storytelling, will go toward helping TBS build their permanent home.
Founded in 2015 by Eva Parra and Camilo Otero, Calipso Press is a small risograph printing studio, publishing label, and artist collective based in Cali, Colombia. Its virtual table this year has a great selection of its decidedly whimsical publications. There is Quick crossword chaekkori (2016) by artist Martín La Roche, a series of 23 letterpress posters that together hold the clues to solve a crossword puzzle he discovered more than ten years ago. María Jimena Sánchez’s Esquina con vista (A corner with a view) is a meditative compilation of drawings inspired by the corners of rooms. And a 2021 calendar by Colombian artist Valeria Giraldo, composed of 12 mosaic-like photographs of the ocean that together make up the image Un mar de lágrimas (A sea of tears), inspires us to keep our heads above water during uncertain times.
This Maine-based publisher merges two of the most delightful genres in the literary world — children’s books and artists’ books — to bring us unique publications and zines for a “child audience, however defined.” Sure enough, the titles presented at Childish Books’s virtual table are sweet, silly, and yet surprisingly deep, perfect for the kids in your life or the kid inside you. Particularly lovely is Slow Looking: These Views Are Our Tools by artist and social justice activist Lukaza Branfman-Verrisimo, a spiral notebook-like publication filled with interactive materials like viewfinders and coloring pages that encourage a slow, aware, and deliberate observation of the world — a worthy endeavor for readers of any age. Ten percent of proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to Maine Youth Justice, an org working to end youth incarceration in Maine.
Chimurenga — named after a Shona word that loosely translates to “struggle for freedom” or “liberation war” — prints a triennial magazine, a quarterly broadsheet, and a biennial publication known as the African Cities Reader. The editorial platform and radio station from Cape Town also runs Chimurenga Library, an ongoing, curated online archive of independent Pan-African periodicals and publications. Selections from these myriad arts- and politics-infused projects, all made possible by writers, illustrators, photographers, and other creative minds from Africa and its diasporas, will be on display at the fair.
“It feels like propelling all our books and publications into a new world order, combining paper and print with the flair of sci-fi,” Sarah Chalabi, founder of Dongola Publishing, told me in an email about her excitement towards participating in Printed Matter’s virtual fair this year. The Lebanese publishing house is a platform for contemporary voices from West Asia, North Africa, and South Asia. Its debut presentation for PMVABF is full of treasures — such as Fatima El Hajj’s Storm and You are Free, an impossibly beautiful, hand-stitched artist’s book painted with China ink, made as a tribute to the Black pre-Islamic poet Antarah Ibn Shaddad, whose mother was enslaved and who often tackled discrimination and servitude in his writing.
Based in Santiago, Chile, HAMBRE describes each of its zines as “a unique recipe, cooked intimately with authors and collaborators,” and its fair page will reference a dinner party, setting each publication against the background of the blue rubber tablecloth typically found in Chilean houses. Spotlighting Latin American women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, HAMBRE is also known for its Acción Gráfica Urgente (Urgent Graphic Action) program, a series of political resistance posters launched when violent protests broke out in Chile in October 2019. Among its offerings for PMVABF: Para servir o llevar, a book by Chilean artist Oni88 featuring hand-painted landscapes of love and Chinese food in Santiago; and Manual de limpieza / Clean Book, a bilingual publication by Chilean artist and domestic worker Fernanda Ivanna that seeks inspiration and self-awareness through quotidian household chores. The first edition, which has a print run of 50 numbered copies, includes “a tiny cleaning set,” and whatever that means, I’m excited.
Expanding access and resources for experimental publishing, especially by marginalized voices, is at the core of Queer.Archive.Work (QAW), a reading room, publisher, and community space in Providence, Rhode Island. On the occasion of the virtual book fair, QAW is launching Queer Matters, a collaborative, 60-page folio of writing, drawings, photographs, and text exchanges produced by its members during the fall and winter of 2020. The zine is available for free or trade to queer, trans, and/or BIPOC fair visitors (anything received in exchange will become a permanent addition to QAW’s physical library, a very cool concept); institutions, private collectors, and all others can purchase Queer Matters for $45, with all funds benefiting the nonprofit. For those looking to socialize, QAW will also be hosting one-hour “queer hang-outs” Thursday through Sunday this week; more details on their homepage.
The beloved Brooklyn book studio Small Editions will showcase a selection of titles from its impressive eight-year history of producing limited edition, small-run publications for artists, architects, and designers. It will also launch two brand-new projects at the fair: Darkroom Drawing, an ode to photographic printing by artist Sam Margevicius that includes risograph, laserjet, and traditional silver gelatin prints; and Gi Eun (Ginny) Huo’s all i wanted was to get into heaven, a multimedia book that tells the story of a spiritual journey while tackling the traumatic history of religious colonization, accompanied by an 8mm stop motion film that will debut at Huo’s book launch, hosted on Zoom. Both Margevicius and Huo’s book launch events are scheduled for next weekend; sign up on Small Editions’s fair page when it goes live.
If their punchy name hasn’t made you smile yet, their colorful, artist-made books and zines will surely win you over. Led by a collective of Black artists and musicians, TORTILLAGURL was founded in 2016 to document and celebrate Baltimore’s arts scene “in a city that does not prioritize its Black artists.” In 2017, they began printing small submission-based zines with local artwork, each edition driven by a different color as a theme. Their photo book Tidbits, which debuted in 2019 at the Baltimore Museum of Art, offers an insider look into Baltimore’s cultural underground.