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Staten Island, New York, United States

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Visiting Editions/Artists' Book Fair in NYC

I visited the Editions/Artists' Book Fair on Friday evening, Nov. 4 at the invitation of my friend, Susan Happersett. She makes books with Purgatory Pie Press and was at their booth. 
The fair's website http://www.eabfair.com gives a complete listing of all the participants and a little background information about the fair. The little catalogues given away at the door are beautiful objects themselves, even moreso than those for the big splashy art fairs. In addition to having an image for each exhibitor, they contain a helpful description of their mission and focus.
 Green Topia Chairs by Barbara Gallucci
The moment I stood in the doorway I remembered how impressed I had been with the quality of the art the last time I had visited. There is a wide variety of styles, scale, and approaches to books and multiples,  but the craftsmanship and originality was inspiring and reassuring to me. I could very much feel the hand of the artist throughout. Despite the technology available to us to create masses of multiples, I'm very happy to see that the traditional methods of production are thriving, that artists find them relevant and also find ways to be innovative with them.

I stopped at the booth for the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop. The first thing I did was poke (with permission) at the odd cast-paper catfish "nests" that Willie Birch had made from real catfish nests in his backyard. 

The second thing that caught my eye were some prints made by Chakaia Booker. I'm a great admirer of her sculpture made from castoff tires. My printmaking teacher, Herman Zaage, had said that sculptors make some of the best printmakers and I think these prints proved that. The Workshop representative shared with me the approach that Chakaia and the printshop worked through so that she could be comfortable in the printmaking process. The resulting prints look "built", with fluid embossed lines and chine colle elements in addition to the printed lines. A picture of them would not catch the subtleties.

I remember meeting Bob Blackburn when I was working at the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in the eighties. He came to an opening for Faith Ringgold. He had done a series of prints about war with Faith in the sixties and I believe that was Faith's first printmaking experience. He was a printmaking evangelist, approaching me as I worked behind the gallery desk with a "you should come over and make some prints". The Workshop carries on his mission of helping artists discover something new about artmaking through making prints.

Kristen Martincic's work is in the middle booth,
with her old fashioned swimsuit print/sculpture.
Another booth that grabbed my attention was The Print Center. They were featuring simple, quiet iconographic prints that were really sculptures by the artist Kristen Martincic. In addition to her delicate paper swimsuit in this picture, she was showing some small printed "pillows", 3" in diameter, that were intricate and masterfully executed monotypes printed on rice paper and then stuffed. They were priced at an incredible $110 each. See more about this artist at http://printcenterstore.myshopify.com/collections/martincic.   But, you have to see these pillows in person.

My next stop was to see my friend Susan Happersett at Purgatory Pie Press. Susan makes math-based art. See her work here http://www.happersett.com/home. She shared some books she had made, completely by hand, which included complex original drawings based on chaos theory. She also pointed out some lovely new handprinted postcards by Dikko Faust, one of which had a dizzyingly intricate pattern of circles on it. Purgatory Pie uses a letterset press to produce their material. Check them out here  http://www.purgatorypiepress.com/.

My parting glance of the fair was a wall-sized print created out of variable modules by Daniel Heyman. It's a commentary on war and a very ambitious project. I was drawn to it because of the rough quality of the print, with a woodgrain background. It was well positioned on a back wall and a fitting parting tribute to a fair that features artists pushing the envelope through editions and books.

Where Photographers are Blinded, Eagles' Wings are Clipped, at left, by Daniel Heyman

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