The LA Art Book Fair presented by Printed Matter holds its fifth annual event exhibiting artist books, zines, and other printed publications this weekend, from February 24th through February 26th at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Hosting 300 exhibitors who range from highbrow international publishing houses to smaller self-publishers making artist monographs, photo books, DIY zines, and other printed artworks, the weekend is like a Coachella or Burning Man music festival but for art nerds. (Think smarter outfits, fewer drugs.) It also includes a mix of programming, like artist-led conversations, workshops, screenings, DJs, and musical performances from the likes of ‘Cholo goth’ duo Prayers, who perform on Sunday.
Last year, LAABF drew a sizable crowd of attendees – about 35,000 people – and in the wake of a self-publishing boom and zine fair craze the attendance is sure to grow. However, critiques of the LAABF, an extension of its New York progenitor, the New York Art Book Fair, note that the fair is not exactly diverse in terms of representation for artists of color. This criticism is part of the reason NAH Fair, the “mostly LA based, mostly P.O.C., and entirely anti-authoritarian” art book fair was launched as a refutation to LAABF in 2016. This year, NAH presents 49 “ungovernable projects and hustles” centering radical zinemakers, organizers, and art collectives on February 24th and 25th in a space a block away from LAABF.
NAH’s organizers also draw connections between the art world and gentrification – an issue many neighborhoods in LA have been experiencing for years. They see LAABF as somewhat complicit in this gentrification via artists and the general notion that “art flips real estate.” As an antidote to this phenomenon, NAH Fair’s programming includes organizations that mobilize working class communities in LA, such as Union de Vecinos, Defend Boyle Heights, and LA Tenants Union. NAH offers space to discuss ideas about inserting resistance into our daily lives, whether it be through visual art, music, or daily living. In a way, hosting a fair with publishers, artists, musicians, and organizers, many who are multi-hyphenates, is a method of normalizing political discourse, something communities of color very much need right now. Last year, about 3000 people attended the fair, with a modest 15+ exhibitors. This year with 49+ exhibitors, some from Mexico, Japan, the UK, and Canada, they’re expecting a bit more. They’ll also be having conversations about ungovernable feminism, a workshop about how to encrypt your e-mails, and performances by Strangers, (A)rgum(e)nt?, Snatches With Power, and Jeffzilla.
With that said, LAABF is not entirely void of narratives from people of color. There are several Latinx artists exhibiting in the fair as well as programming with Latinx topics and art, including a conversation between myself and Guadalupe Rosales discussing her Instagram and art project Veteranas and Rucas, as well as a historic exhibit featuring 200+ issues of Teen Angels magazine.
There’s no reason to stay home this weekend, Los Angeles. We’ve highlighted the Latinx presence at LAABF and NAH Fair, some who are showing not-to-be-missed work below. Check out the fairs, support living artists, and buy some zines.
La Chamba Press – LAABF Exhibitor
La Chamba Press is a publishing collective based in Brooklyn, NY making work filtered through the lens of diasporic experiences from the Caribbean to Mexico. Stephanie Segura, a collective member and LA native, will be selling her two newest photo zines: Not My President, photos of the march in Manhattan the day after Trump was elected, and La Lucha Sigue, photos from the Women’s March in D.C.
Anal Magazine – LAABF Exhibitor
From Anal Magazine Vol. 5
This Mexico City-based publication discusses the theme of manhood through the mediums of literature, visual arts, photography, film, and porn.
Colectiva Cósmica – LAABF Exhibitor
This collection of womyn artists creates artwork and zines that aim to breakdown
Ixchel by Itzel Alejandra for Cósmica’s ‘Goddess’ zine.
the constraints of what it means to be a girl artist. They believe any girl creating in her bedroom is worthy of recognition for her work. They will be debuting new zines called Art Girl Dreams, Cósmica Volume 2, the Crystal Zine, and a zine compiling ideas about fascism written by women of color writers.
Gato Negro – LAABF Exhibitor
Excerpt from ‘Why did you shoot me?’
This Mexico City-based publishing project prints short runs of risograph works. New releases will include Why Did you Shoot Me? – a collection of interpretations on the question.
Discipline Press – LAABF Exhibitor
From the Chicano History Posters series.
Discipline Press is a publishing house run by artist Tamara Santibañez. They feature artwork that runs along the edges of politics, punk, and taboo subcultures. The project the Chicano History Poster Series is a collaboration between Santibañez and Ricardo Montenegro (Mr.1777) that blend visual artworks with historical information to contextualize often-used symbols related to Chicanismo.
Teen Angels Magazine – Talk
Image courtesy of Teen Angels Magazine.
David De Baca, the owner of much of the content in the Teen Angels exhibit, will discuss the mysterious artist Teen Angel and his cult magazine, which chronicled SoCal cholo and Chicano culture for more than 20 years.
Friday February 24
5:00 – 6:00 pm
Las Antillas para los Antillanos – Talk
An exhibit at Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA) called ‘The Antilles for the Antilleans’ houses an archive of material from Caribbean artists and historians. Artists Monica Rodriguez, Hailey Loman, and Kelman Duran will discuss the project.
Friday February 24
2:00 – 3:00 pm
Self Help Graphics & Art and the Inaugural Chican/o Latina/o Printmaking Summit
The historic LA-based organization Self Help Graphics, which launched during the Chicano Movement, will speak about the role of the master printer and strategies for the development of new master printers.
SUNDAY February 26
1:00 – 2:00 PM
Veteranas and Rucas : The Instagram account archiving Southern California’s Chicana Youth Subculture, with Guadalupe Rosales and Barbara Calderón
I will speak with artist Guadalupe Rosales, the founder of Veteranas & Rucas about the Instagram account’s beginnings, how it has become a cultural archive, and what it means for the communities it represents.
SUNDAY February 26
2:00 – 3:00 PM
Cristina Mancinas – NAH Fair Exhibitor
You might have seen her design “Femmes against Fascism” or “Femmes Against Trump” in that recognizable in-your-face Black Flag typeface. This LA-based artist also screen prints on recycled clothing. Another favorite design of mine is her quote, “being emotionally manipulative isn’t very punk rock of you.”
Originals Magazine – NAH Fair Exhibitor
This magazine produced by Richard Castor is a compilation of images and texts about modern lowrider and cholo/chola culture. It has interviews, images, and photos from artists living in “varrios worldwide.”
Alma Rosa Rivera – NAH Fair Exhibitor
This Chicana zinemaker heads Frijolera Press where she makes zines about anxiety, subcultural Chicanismo, and one called ‘Love in the Time of Trump.’ She is also a poet and will be performing on Friday, February 24th, in Boyle Heights at an event with Colectiva Cósmica and La Chamba Press.
If you visit their Tumblr, just know it is NSFW. This group aims to center the experience of the “modern jotx” and to archive that very particular experience and aesthetic. But besides their use of explicit images, they have zines that give advice when dealing with ICE in the time of Trump and immigration raids.