Pretty Paper

Andrew Berardini on the inaugural edition of the Acid-Free Art Book Market

Artist and practicing witch, Lazaros. (All photos: Andrew Berardini)

A COOL BREEZE carried the thick aroma of brick-fired pizza and the tunes of DJ Maxwell Sterling over tank-topped and shorted Angelenos as they shifted from booth to booth, tucking books into bright yellow totes under the setting sun. Here was the Acid-Free Los Angeles Art Book Market—as chill and cozy as a backyard BBQ—spread across a parking lot and two floors of Blum & Poe, the capacious commercial gallery hosting the inaugural edition, which opened May 4 and ran until May 6. With the tragic death of its organizer Shannon Michael Cane, Printed Matter postponed the 2018 edition of its wildly popular LA Art Book Fair. A handful of other fairs, markets, and fests throughout the spring, including the LA Zine and Art Book Bazaar, the Independent Art Book Fair, the San Fernando Valley Art Book Fair, the upcoming LA Pages, and Acid-Free, attempted to bring back a space for the beautifully unruly mass of publishers small and large that normally inhabit the Geffen Contemporary at MoCA every year. The difference between a fair and a market is perhaps one of scale—though with more than eighty exhibitors and thousands of people passing through the door each day, Acid-Free was hardly diminutive.

Dorothée Perret of DoPe Press.

“This feels like the core of the all the art book people. I don’t feel as lost in the crowds here,” said Brian Kennon of 2nd Cannons Publications, manning a few shared tables with Motto Distribution’s Alexis Zavialoff. In the stacks was their copublished Idea Car (2016), by Matthew Clifford Green. Green’s work is a collection of scrawled ideas for paintings that emerge as strange poems, with distinctly surreal California moments such as “Beautiful surfers talking about their broken bones.” A few tables down, a white jumpsuited Ben Lee Ritchie Handler manned the Nicodim Gallery booth, which was selling occult catalogues for a trilogy of exhibitions that Aaron Moulton curated at Nicodim’s LA and Bucharest locations. Each copy bears a cryptic symbol and was placed behind a matching semitranslucent pyramid. Nearby, a large glass jug brimmed with light bulbs and dice; on the wall behind it was a painting full of auratic light. The books and installation were designed by the artist Lazaros, who sat quietly in a corner during the opening, reading Alan Watts. When coaxed, Lazaros (who is also a practicing witch) explained the thaumaturgy in the jug: “It’s a spell for balance, but I think a lot of people keep touching it for its light.”

Artists Iva Gueorguieva and Katherina Olschbaur.

LA art book doyenne Dagny Corcoran, whose shop (Art Catalogues) and portrait by David Hockney are both at LACMA, was totally buoyant: “This has been one of the best experiences at a fair . . . totally gracious.” Upstairs, DoPe Press’s Dorothée Perret summed up the weekend with a simple exclamation: “Good vibes!” Downstairs from Semiotext(e) and the Women’s Center for Creative Work (which had on hand wholly useful guides such as How to Make Art During Fascism and A Feminist Organization’s Handbook) was the newest shop in town, OOF Books—it was selling beautiful works on paper by recent Viennese transplant Katherina Olschbauer. The Underground Museum displayed volumes from some of its incredible speakers and programming, in addition to the first issue of the museum’s new magazine, FEB, edited by Myriam Ben Salah. The fair was strongly local, but many international exhibitors kept it lively, including Toronto’s Art Metropole, Mexico City’s Gato Negro, and Paris’s Jean Boîte Éditions (which was selling a droll little book about the North Korean dictator just looking at things). As the day wound down with cold beers and iced cardamom coffee, the lights finally flickered in the gallery and fairgoers crossed the surging traffic of La Cienega Boulevard for post-fair cocktails at the Mandrake. On his way out and laden with spoils, dealer Jeff Poe was asked how it felt to share his space with other commercial galleries: “It’s how it ought to be, open and collaborative. Together is the only way we’re all going to survive.”

Dealer Jeff Poe of Blum & Poe.

Lauren Mackler, curator and managing editor of Sublevel.

Ben Thornborough of Regen Projects.

Jonathan Middleton of Information Office.

Danielle St-Amour, director of Art Metropole, with curator Katarina Veljovic.

Dagny Corcoran, founder of Art Catalogues.

Curator Ana Iwataki and artist Benjamin Reiss.

Artist and practicing witch, Lazaros. (All photos: Andrew Berardini)

Artist David Horvitz.

Artist Luke Fischbeck.

Alexis Zavialoff of Motto and Brian Kennon of 2nd Cannon.

Christie Hayden of OOF Books.

Nicoletta Beyer, director of communications and publications at Blum & Poe and Acid-Free organizer.

Sarah Bay Gachot, writer and Acid-Free coordinator.

Ben Lee Ritchie Handler of Nicodim Gallery.

Kate Johnston of Women’s Center for Creative Work.

The Underground Museum’s Justen LeRoy and Zora Kidron. (All photos: Andrew Berardini)