“I actually worked for Printed Matter at their very first space on Lispenard Street in 1977, ’76,” Thurston Moore said at last night’s preview of the ninth annual NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1, staged by Printed Matter. His job then, he said, after perusing some records at White Columns and between jostles from the crowd, was to “maintain some semblance of order” in the back room, “much to their chagrin.” They managed to get along despite him, he said, taking in the crowd. “They’ve come a long way.”
The fair, as always, seemed to draw a diverse number of subcultures to it Thursday evening, something of a comic-con for aesthetes, such that it was impossible not to bump into someone you knew in every room. “The social anxiety level here is so high that you gotta just kind of disassociate,” joked the artist Nick DeMarco, who had a book of abstract poems for sale in the Peradam booth.
Not far from the entrance Karma’s Wade Guyton special project dominated its own tiny room. On the far end, a rough wooden table with his new book, One Month Ago, which chronicles a month in the life of a hardcore gay sex Tumblr, sfcrewcut.tumblr.com, where Guyton had found a picture of one his paintings. The book is essentially just a lot of homemade S&M porn and then, at the very back, the post with the picture of his work: $45. Karma was seemingly unable to keep them on the table, even early on. A version of the Guyton work on the blog leaned against the other wall, a “second-generation” version of the printed piece, explained Karma proprietor Brendan Dugan, itself printed from a high-resolution photo of the work. “It’s a third-rail, like a lot of his work,” he said of the book.
It was an evening of unconventional takes on publishing. At Richard Prince’s Fulton Ryder bookshop, you could buy 9-inch nails, in an open edition, for $90. The imprint Halmos commissioned works not on paper but on cheap Casio watches, by Mark von Schlegell, Dexter Sinister, Tauba Auerbach whose work (in an edition of 200) makes the watch grid dance in circles somehow related to the circadian rhythms of a certain group of cave explorers in the 1970s. Next to that booth Howie Chen was selling an L.P. of his band with Alan Licht and Cory Arcangel, Title TK, that just consists of a very good conversation they had about pop culture (Sample from the liner notes: “H.C. – There’s only a thin line between Agnostic Front and GE.” A.L – “Agnostic Front is probably a more secure job at this point than GE.” C.A. – “You think you get dental with Agnostic Front?”)
Arcangel had his own booth Thursday—a one-night-only pop-up shop in the PS1 bookstore celebrating the launch of his new monograph—and there showed off an impressive Christmas lights display that he controlled on a PC using a piece of software called Light-O-Rama. “It’s the same program suburban dads use to make their Christmas lights sync up with music. It looks sick,” said Arcangel, who went on to play nothing but the British power metal band Dragonforce all night.
“I’ve been quietly premiering works of art at the fair for the past four years,” the artist Paul Chan said at the booth of (largely e-)publishing house Badlands Unlimited (where, according to its website, “HANS ULRICH OBRIST wll b signing his book THINK LIKE CLOUDS w his LEFT HAND n LEFT HAND ONLY” on Saturday). He gestured to his New New Testament, published in association with the Laurenz Foundation and Schaulager, where the 1005 of the book works he’s shown at the fair and collected in New New Testament, are currently on display in Basel, Switzerland. He said the project spoke to “the social life of books.” “I saw all these hardcover books lying around and I wanted to destroy them,” he said, “because I make e-books now.”
New York publisher Swill Children’s Jesse Hlebo was most excited about a new shirt he made in collaboration with Camilla Venturini. A response to the recent riots in Ferguson, the front said, “BURNING GAS STATIONS,” above a logo of national chain QuikTrip, and the back featured embroidered flames that aesthetically suggested the kind of NASCAR ephemera that could be purchased at QuikTrip-like gas stations nationwide.
At Marlborough Chelsea’s booth, Andrew Kuo debuted several new counterfeit ’90s T-shirts among them one that read, “JERRY LIVES,” accompanied by a picture of Jerry Seinfeld and another that read, “THE SMITHS,” with a picture of Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith. (That one was especially popular—one attendee proudly showed his Instagram of it to a gallery director, who responded, “Oh, everyone’s seen that one. Matthew Higgs is wearing one.”) Also popular was his Simpsons-esque riff on the 1994 New York Knicks. “I’d worried that might be too old for this crowd,” said Kuo, content.
When asked about the respective differences between the Los Angeles and New York art book fairs, Los Angeles-based artist Adam Villacin commented that, “The L.A. fair is at MOCA, so it’s fancier and bigger. Like, I’m in a tent right now,” said Villacin, who was selling zines featuring fun and irreverent line drawings of athletes and skateboarders.
“You should just grab a button and whatever that is will be my quote,” said Brooklyn-based artist Noah Lyon, also known as Retard Riot, who eventually picked out two buttons that formed an ad hoc sentence: “Look at all your stuff, get killed by me.”
The 8-Ball Zine Zone was tucked away in its own nook between the Zine Tent and the Small Press Dome. “We wanted to secure ourselves in this concrete bunker where we could be unfuckwithable,” said New York-based 8-Ball’s Adam Rossiter, commenting on the Vietnam-inspired (tarp, netting) decorum that defined the booth. Rossiter also added that 8-Ball wanted to provide a “good vibe” and noted, “We’re going to have a juicer in here tomorrow. We’re trying to smoke weed in here.”
Bivouacking wasn’t the worst idea. By the time Moore played a sludgy, abstract set with the artist James Nares at the end of the night, the doors to the museum heaved so heavily that it was impossible to get near the stage, not that the smokers in the courtyard couldn’t feel the reverberations all the same. Soon the PS1 honchos headed to director Klaus Biesenbach’s office for a champagne toast that began, “This crowd is A-MAZING.”