Photo: Bywater Bros. Editions
“So many books, so little time,” Frank Zappa once said—and that pretty much sums up the experience of the NY Art Book Fair. The sheer plethora of publications stretches the imagination to its outer limits; every time you think you’ve seen it all, another possibility reveals itself. And that’s what makes the fair such a phenomenon; there is something for everyone.
Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 continues through Sunday, September 18, 2016 and offers an astonishing array of independent art books. Among the standouts are David Zwirner Books, Cheim & Read, The Hole NYC, Aperture, STH Editions, Bywater Bros. Editions, Andrew Roth, and Arthur Fournier Fine & Rare.
Andrew Roth kicks things off with a project room on the second floor, which features classic tour posters and flyers from the punk era. It’s an intense trip back in time, reminding us of the power of print to shape and inform the mind. With original posters of Blondie, the Sex Pistols, Richard Hell, the Damned, and the Dead Boys, among others, you’ll feel inspired to pick up a copy of Punk in Print 1976–1980: The Complete Mott Collection for your home or office library.
Meanwhile, on the left coast, photographer Brad Elterman was digging the scene, documenting Los Angeles in the 1970s and ‘80s. Bywater Bros. Editions presents No Dogs on the Beach, a charming paperback volume of some of his most classic imags. From Michael Jackson to Joan Jett, the Ramones to Leif Garrett, Elterman captured the people who lit up the skies over La La Land.
Kicking it old school style, Arthur Fourier Fine & Rare has a copy of Rap! Portraits and Lyrics of a Generation of Black Rockers by Bill Adler and Janette Beckman. First published in 1991, Rap! is a seminal volume in the illustrated history of Hip Hop, with Beckman’s iconic photographs of Slick Rick, EPMD, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and Run-D.M.C. appearing throughout. It’s a must have for any serious collector; the images and lyrics will take you back to a time before Hip hop went pop and it was impossible to sell out.
On that old school tip, STH Editions offers a selection of vintage prints by Pittsburgh’s own Charles “Teenie” Harris, whose archive spans more than 50 years and 80,000 images. Unlike his contemporaries, Harris was a working class photographer who kept a circumscribed beat, making his body of work among the most complete documentation of African-American life in the twentieth century. The photographs were acquired years ago at a flea market, and are in perfect condition.
Picking up on the thread of African-American life, this summer Aperture magazine introduced issue 223, Vision & Justice. Guest edited by Sarah Lewis, Assistant Professor at Harvard University, and produced in association with an exhibition of the same name now on view at Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, the magazine addresses the role of photography in African American life, with contributions from Wynton Marsalis, Hank Thomas Willis, Thelma Golden, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Ava DuVernay, Margo Jefferson, Teju Cole, and Jamel Shabazz, among many others.
On the other side, Cheim and Read presents In Word Only by Jean-Michael Basquiat, featuring a selection of paintings, drawings, and notebooks that feature only the artist’s written words. For Basquiat, a word was more than a symbol of an idea; it was an aesthetic unto itself, ready to be explored in a wide array of facets that are as compelling as they are unnerving. By stripping the word of all context and rendering it as pure form, Basquiat confronts our assumptions about the properties of language and the underlying coded messages. He understood their power, and he challenged us, being both casual and intentional with his choices.
Which brings us full circle to The Hole NYC, and a charming little volume titled A$AP Yams Gems. Steven “A$AP Yams” Rodriguez, who died of a drug overdose in 2015, left behind a legacy in music as well as in the written word. He went on Twitter to crack wise about his life, and from those memorable tweets a book was born, organized by New York artist Ajani Brathwaite. It’s a touching reminder that even though we live in the Digital Age, the desire to preserve our legacies cannot be erased.
All photos: © Miss Rosen
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.