A week or so before the recent NY Art Book Fair at PS1, Nicholas Gottlund of independent publisher Gottlund Verlag posted a ten-second clip from Seinfeld to his blog. ”What is this obsession people have with books?” Jerry asks George, “They put them in their houses like they’re trophies. What do you need it for after you read it?”
George’s response—”They’re my books!”—is typical of George and probably plenty of other bibliophiles out there. But, even as many people (including my own parents) do the lion’s share of their reading on a Kindle these days, there are plenty of other less selfish reasons to go on clinging to the printed page. At the NY Art Book Fair, the profusion of independent publishers made a fine case for clearing out space on the shelves for books, whether they’re destined to be trophies or not.
Established in 2007, Gottlund Verlag is one of them. “Verlag” is the German word for “publisher,” and although Gottlund isn’t based in Germany (he works out of studios in Baltimore, MD and Kutztown, PA) the Teutonic flavoring is no mere affectation. The studio is housed in a picturesque nineteenth century Pennsylvania Dutch barn. There’s even hex signs painted on the walls. From this enchanting space, Gottlund collaborates with artists like photographers Coley Brown and Ed Panar on every step of the book’s design before producing them by hand in the studio. He and many of the other publishers were on hand at the fair to sell their wares and talk shop.
The entire fair was ripe with confabbing. I tripped into it myself in a corner room of PS1 given over to Werkplaats Typografie, a graduate design program in Arnhem, The Netherlands. The room had been turned into the “Mary Shelley Facsimile Library” of print media scanned and reproduced by current students in the program. As one of the students, Laure Giletti, explained to me, each student compiled a list of sources they’re interested in and wrote a text stringing them together. These “Frankensteined” annotated bibliographies were bound into nifty booklets and sold for three bucks each. Unlike Frankenstein’s monster, the booklets are held together by glue, not stitching. The room was outfitted with coffee and cookies to encourage fellow bookworms to hang out and swap more references. Giletti reminded me of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and I went on and on about the Whole Earth Catalog I had pored over earlier in the day.
Other folks were sharing their reference points too. Golden Age was also at the fair with their book Reference Work, published during a recent exhibition at the MCA Chicago. In it, proprietors Martine Syms and Marco Kane Braunschweiler share their favorite business books, self-help resources, a business course syllabus, and personal notes on operating their store in Chicago. As they note, there’s no clear roadmap for running a successful art book shop. This makes searching out business aids that do exist—think of that aisle in any chain bookstore with the cringe-inducing covers—a necessity. The unapologetically commercial world of business self-help publishing might seem like the last place artists might look to for value, but Syms and Braunschweiler make the case that, if properly distilled, the references gathered in their book might actually prove helpful. It seems to me that this is the most any bibliophile could ask of the shelves sagging under the weight of his or her books. Rather than becoming trophies, one might hope that some volatile drops of wisdom might seep out from the shelves and, pooling together, set off sparks that bring the monster to life.
Bad at Sports is pleased to have Martine Syms of Golden Age as a guest blogger with her picks from last week’s New York Art Book Fair. “Martine Syms is a conceptual entrepreneur based in Chicago, Illinois. You can usually find her doing “research” (reading blogs) in the back office at Golden Age or watching television shows on DVD. Golden Age is a concept shop, founded in 2007, that sells publications, music, apparel and other editioned works created by artists. Golden Age makes a statement about an alternative mode of making and selling art; that it can be straightforward, accessible, and moderately priced.”
This year Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair claimed all three floors of P.S.1 to present over 200 international booksellers, galleries, and independent publishers/artists including art luminaries Dexter Sinister, Peres Projects, Electronic Arts Intermix, and E-Flux. Unlike most commercial art fairs this year, the NY Art Book Fair managed to escape the shadow of the recession. Everyone seemed to be having fun amongst the many DIY initiatives that have been doing so much with so little for so long. However, similar to most art fairs, NYABF was incredibly overwhelming and I couldn’t possibly see everything. Here are some highlights from last weekends event, if you want to link to projects that I missed, please do so in the comments.
A Modest Proposal For A Serving Library – Dexter Sinister
A Modest Proposal For A Serving Library, Nick Relph and Oliver Payne Dexter Sinister [http://dextersinister.org] (designers Stuart Bailey and David Reinfurt) presented a very heady not-so-modest proposal for taking over an abandoned library in Los Angeles that is also the site of the newest video by Brits Nick Relph and Oliver Payne. In the video, books are chroma-keyed onto shelves, and the librarian’s serve red wine. Over the weekend the Serving Library also hosted a screening of Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 with an introduction by my favorite Dot Dot Dot contributor Rob Giampietro.
The Werkplaats Typografie
The Werkplaats Typografie, a Dutch post-graduate design program, brought all 17 students to New York for the fair. Across from a wall displaying their most recent graphic output, the students set up studio in which they would bootleg any of the Werkplaats’ catalogs for a mere $5.
Times are tough, but there’s a lot to look forward to with the coming Fall art season in Chicago. Here’s what Meg and I are most looking forward to seeing over the next three months — and be sure to check out Stephanie’s guide to Friday and Saturday openings below!
9/11 Philip Von Zweck at ThreeWalls (M, C) The title of this show is “The Fortieth Anniversary of the First Anniversary of May ’68 (in September).” Von Zweck is a significant and much-beloved figure in the Chicago art scene who ran a highly respected apartment gallery for a number of years. This exhibition marks his return to a more traditional solo artist exhibition framework.
9/11 Luis Gispert at Rhona Hoffman (C) New large-scale photographic portraits and videos by the Miami-born, Brooklyn-based Gispert that focus on immigrant sectors of the American workforce and the search for expressive outlets outside the realm of labor. A three-channel film focuses on Gispert’s friend Rene, a Cuban immigrant who works in a Miami restaurant supply store.
9/11 Jessica Labatte at Scott Projects (M). Labatte’s exhibition Bright Branches documents found objects collected from Chicago alleys and junk stores.
9/11 Craig Doty: Women at Roots and Culture (M,C). The women in Doty’s new photographic series have been described as appearing “physically exhausted as well as ethically or morally debased,” i.e. a wet and shivering woman looking out past viewers with few narrative clues as to why, etc. Given Choire Sicha’s description of Doty as “a sick little pervert” whose previous body of work was “very John Hughes meets John Waters meets John Lydon,” well, let’s just say we can’t wait to see his approach to the subject for ourselves.
9/12 Doug Ischar at Golden (M,C). A body of work from 1985, never before seen in its entirety, is the enticement here. Ischar’s show is titled Marginal Waters and features images taken in Chicago’s now-defunct Belmont Rocks.
9/19 Jonas Wood at Shane Campbell Gallery (C). He’s from L.A. and showed at Black Dragon Society, plus he’s collaborated with painter Mark Grotjahn…for now, that’s all I need to know to want to see Wood’s show.
9/19 Jason Lazarus, Wolfgang Plöger, Zoe Strauss at The Art Institute (M). A show of recent photographic acquisitions of these artists’ works by the Art Institute.
9/20 Allen Sekula, Polonia and Other Fables at The Renaissance Society (C). New photographs by anti-globalization hero Sekula that focus on Chicago’s rich labor history, its Polish working-class population along with The University of Chicago’s famous lineage of economic theorists. Heady yet vital stuff from this woefully under-recognized L.A.-based artist.
9/25 – 9/27 Mikhail Baryshnikov at Harris Theater (M). It’s Baryshnikov dude. ‘Nuff said.
9/30 Heartland at the Smart Museum (C). Coorganized by the Smart Museum of Art and the Van Abbemuseum, a survey of artists from the Midwest aka the American Heartland. Hopefully it’ll subvert the syrupy connotations of it’s title, or at least be the kind of show that people argue, bitch and moan about rather than simply ignore.
10/2 – 10/4 Western Exhibitions and Golden Age at the NY Art Book Fair (M). The only event to make it to our list that is not in Chicago. If your in New York at the beginning of October check out two Chicagoans holding it down at the Fair.
October, opening date TBA, Carroll Dunham at He Said/She Said (C). Carroll Dunham shows in a suburban apartment gallery: the Oak Park home of Pamela Fraser and Randall Szott. Can’t wait for this.
10/8-21 Chicago International Film Festival (M) In it’s 45th year the film festival the two week festival is the hub for all film fanatics. This festival might be the only time to catch certain films so be sure to check out their schedule in advance.
10/10 Jeremy Deller: It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq, at the MCA (M) Commissioned by The Three M Project Jeremy Deller will invite numerous participants to discuss their knowledge of the Iraq War. Some guest will include verterans, and scholars.
James Welling at Donald Young (C)
10/10 Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage at The Art Institute (C). I’m a sucker for Victoriana, and this exhibition –the first “to comprehensively examine the little-known phenomenon of Victorian photocollage, presenting work that has rarely—and in many cases never—before been displayed or reproduced” — is probably the one show I’m most looking forward to seeing this fall. A medium mostly practiced by aristocratic women, Victorian photocollage combined human, animal, and botanical forms in all sorts of wacky and whimsical ways, and I’m looking forward to reading the accompanying full-color catalogue to learn more about the ways that female artists of this era approached the form some sixty odd years before Picasso and Braque started playing around with it.
10/13 Alex Halsted and David Moré at Gallery 400 (C). Chicago-based Moré “collaborates” with an elephant nose fish, who emits an electrical pulse as a navigation tool which the artist then amplifies. I love the gallery’s blurb on this show: “This performance duo mixes issues of displacement, communications, commercial sound and inter-species contact in a singularly engaging bio-tech format.” Yep, pretty much says it all.
10/16 In Search of the Mundane at ThreeWalls (M) Organized by Randall Szott and InCUBATE According to ThreeWalls this series will , “include boozy brunches, a lecture on the art of storytelling, various leisure excursions, and a tour of personal collections.”
10/17 Liam Gillick Curates the MCA Collection (M, C). We love the way that the MCA is experimenting with the curation of its permanent collection. The MCA has invited Liam Gillick to select works for its next hanging.
11/TBA James Welling at Donald Young (C). New work by L.A. photographer Welling, whose ongoing interest in the experimental and abstract possibilities of photography set his work apart from contemporaries like Sherrie Levine and Cindy Sherman as well as today’s younger generation focusing heavily on portraiture. Welling’s last show at Donald Young featured photograms of flowers and “torsos” (the latter actually made out of screens sculpted to resemble human curves) made without the use of a camera; the results were gorgeous, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he delves into next.
12/4 Carrie Schneider at MCA 12×12 (M, C) Often using herself as her main character, Schneider melds several genres of art-making including body art, performance, self-portraiture photography and film in images that are haunting, creepy, and hallucinatory in their resonance. If someone ever gave Schneider a huge project budget she could give Matthew Barney a run for his money, but for now we’ll look forward to seeing the new short film Schneider plans to premiere in her first solo museum outing at the MCA. According to the MCA’s website, the film, made in Helsinki, Finland while the artist was there on residency, continues the artists’ ongoing exploration of doubled selves and the uncanny.