When the LA Art Book Fair landed at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s branch in Little Tokyo in 2013, staff at the museum told organizers to expect 5,000 people over the course of the three-day event.
“Well, we got 5,000 people on opening night,” says curator Shannon Cane, who oversees the Los Angeles fair, along with its more established East Coast sibling, the New York Art Book Fair, which are organized by the arts nonprofit Printed Matter. “It was a crazy thing we just didn’t expect.”
Fast forward five years and the LA Art Book Fair is bigger than ever. The fair, which kicks off with a special preview bash on Thursday evening at MOCA’s Geffen branch, is expected to draw anywhere from 35,000 to 40,000 attendees to peruse the offerings from 350 exhibitors from 30 countries, including Japan, Mexico and Spain. On display will be the wide range of books that make up art books: sleek monographs, weighty art historical tomes and handmade artist specials.
In addition, AA Bronson, the artist who first kicked off the fair in New York more than a decade ago, will be in the house on Saturday evening at 5 to talk about his life in artists’ books. “It’s like a mini-homecoming,” says Cane.
This year, as always, there will be oodles of books, as well as performances, music, readings and all manner of ancillary events. In fact, the fair has even attracted another fair: The alternative art book fair called “Nah” — the sort of barnacle-style programming that is typical of art fairs, though less common in book circles.
With so much happening over the course of a few days, it can be dizzying to sort through the options. Here are eight booths and events that will get the book party started:
Special preview party
Everything gets rolling on Thursday evening with a special event featuring musical performances by artist and musician Seth Bogart, as well as the inimitable Kembra Pfahler, the renowned frontwoman of the glam-punk band the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. The first 2,000 visitors (either prepaid or at the door) will get a special edition poster created by artist and filmmaker Mike Mills and the graphic design studio Experimental Jetset that features the tallies of the popular vote in the most recent U.S. presidential election. Because we could all use a reminder of that…. Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission $10. LAABF, MOCA Geffen, 152 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles.
A look back at Teen Angels
The fair features 10 different exhibitions related to books, zines and artists books. Perhaps the most significant will be the show devoted to Teen Angels magazine, the ’80s-era Chicano magazine produced and distributed by a reclusive artist who went only by the nickname “Teen Angel.” The magazine was known for featuring everything from barrio art to graffiti to photography to the fashions of the era — and for only being available in mom-and-pop shops, since no chain store would carry it.
David De Baca, a curator of the exhibition, which is being co-presented by LAABF, Teen Angels and the publishing company Kill Your Idols, says that for many years, no one knew what had become of Teen Angel. “When I started looking around trying to find the guy, there were all of these urban legends,” he recalls. “Some people said he had moved to Mexico. Some said he was locked up. Someone said he was living in San Jose.”
De Baca finally found the man — actually a white artist named David Holland — living in San Bernardino. De Baca, with Bryan Ray Turcotte of Kill Your Idols, now manage aspects of Holland’s archive (the artist died in 2015) and will be displaying original cover art, vintage magazines and other ephemera in a display area constructed to look like Holland’s studio.
On sale will be a new limited edition “Teen Angels” book, which gathers the cover art from the first 180 issues. On Friday at 5 p.m., De Baca and Turcotte will gather to discuss the magazine’s legacy. LAABF, MOCA Geffen, 152 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles, laartbookfair.net.
A decade ago, visual artists Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan launched an arts publication that consisted of “publishing” objects instead of books. For each edition, a guest artist creates something utilitarian — perhaps a shower curtain or a pair of glasses — which “The Thing,” as their imprint is known, releases to subscribers on a quarterly basis. Well, what once seemed like a curious lark is now marking 10 years of existence.
At the fair they will be selling Issue 32 of The Thing, a poncho designed by Experimental Jetset that bears the word “NO” or “ON” — “depending on how you want to spin your current emotional or political state of being.” On Saturday at 2 p.m., the publication will also present a discussion with writer Jonathan Lethem and L.A. artists Amanda Ross-Ho and Ricky Swallow about objects that carry significance for them. LAABF, MOCA Geffen, 152 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles, thethingquarterly.com and laartbookfair.net.
Separately, they will be celebrating their 10th anniversary with a bash at the Standard Hotel with music, ping pong and free beer (for the first hour). Saturday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., 550 S. Flower St., downtown Los Angeles, thethingquarterly.com.
City of writers
The L.A. Municipal Art Gallery in Hollywood has a show on view, “Ours is a City of Writers,” that explores the act of writing through objects and texts. To coincide with the art book fair, they are hosting a series of public events Saturday that explore writing in its myriad forms, including a discussion led by Kim Schoen and Ginny Cook, the artists behind the journal Material, and a wild performance by A.L. Steiner that will draw comparisons between academia and the president. In between, expect DJ sets. Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. at the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, lamag.org.
Cassettes and Instagram portraits
Culver City gallerists Blum & Poe are unveiling a number of new goodies at their booth this year, including a specially commissioned artist audio series. The first volume consists of a pair of cassette tapes produced by painter Theodora Allen and collage artist Linder (the latter done in collaboration with the artist’s son, Max Sterling). Also on sale will be the new book “Richard Prince: New Portraits,” which is comprised of the artist’s controversial appropriations of Instagram images. The book is screw-bound and comes in a special bubble wrap case. Industrial chic! LAABF, MOCA Geffen, 152 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles.
Alternative art book fair
Because one art book fair isn’t enough, the 2-year-old Nah Fair has set up just a block away from MOCA Geffen, with an anti-authoritarian selection of zines, performances and chats with a focus on queer projects and items produced by small presses and people of color. There will be talks, too, covering encrypted communications, feminism and gentrification in Boyle Heights. There are also performances organized by the Descontrol punk shop from downtown Los Angeles. The fair runs Friday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 9 p.m. 374 E. 2nd St., downtown Los Angeles, www.nah.world.
A political zine
Painters Raymond Pettibon and Marcel Dzama have teamed up on a limited edition zine that takes on the political situation — and whose proceeds will go to the ACLU. The 36-page zine, available at the David Zwirner Books booth, features the detailed ink works for which both artists are known, riffing on Donald Trump et al. in ways that are both dark and humorous. Zwirner Books will also have copies of their recently published “Donald Judd Writings.” A talk about this new title, with Flavin Judd and artists Caitlin Murray and Matias Viegener, will take place on Friday at 1 p.m. at the fair. MOCA Geffen, 152 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles, davidzwirnerbooks.com.
Arty tattoo parlor
Last year, Gagosian Gallery featured a conceptual record store that carried records about records. This year, the gallery is transforming its booth into a tattoo parlor, where artists from the popular Shamrock Social Club tattoo shop in Hollywood will provide real deal limited edition tats designed by a who’s who of Southern California artistes. This includes designs by visual artists Henry Taylor and Analia Saban, musician Mark Mothersbaugh and filmmaker Kenneth Anger.
Ben Lee Ritchie Handler, who devised the installation, says there will be plenty of art books on hand too — including special booklets that gather all of the artist tattoo designs. But the tattoos will offer a new way to “collect” art. “My body is my temple,” he jokes. “My body is my museum. My body is my collecting institution!”
It’s an art purchase you hopefully won’t regret. Appointments are walk-in or can be made in advance via the website. LAABF,MOCA Geffen, 152 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles, gagosian.com.
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The L.A. Art Book Fair opens Friday at 1 p.m. and runs through Sunday at 6 p.m. Admission is free. MOCA Geffen, 152 N. Central Ave., downtown Los angeles, laartbookfair.net and moca.org.