There were booths featuring well-established publishers and galleries, but the real pleasure was discovering rare and unique books printed in small numbers by independent establishments.
The real attention-grabbers were the books produced through the Risograph process. Risograph is a printing method introduced by Riso Kagaku Corporation back in the 1980s, meant to provide a fast and low-cost system for large volume printing. It was widely used in schools and public offices for its simplicity, regardless of limitations in colors and printing sizes. However, after the rise of inkjet and laser printers, Risograph was gradually decommissioned and nearly went extinct. Now it is making a big comeback in the creative world.
Knust Press brought a delightful collection of Risograph books made by artists. The copies are modest in size and subject matter – some of the drawings look like doodles –, yet the Risographic process adds another dimension to the illustrations. Single and multi-layered colors create a distinct appearance that is rarely seen these days. The rough surface of the paper provides more tactile stimulation. All of the properties that Risograph possesses due to the limitations of the printing process provide an exciting playground for artists. It is extremely satisfying to slowly page through the beautifully printed books one by one.
Common Satisfactory Standard is another print studio working specifically with Risograph. One of its books is a reprinted excerpt of a magazine from the ’60s, called Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, which was mimeographed (a predecessor of Risograph) on colored construction paper. The pages of the new version are printed in monochrome on brightly colored sheets of construction paper, via a process similar to the original, but the appearance is substantially different. There is an interesting twist in printing old magazines using technology that came after; it is like conceptual art.
Speaking of conceptual art, The Greenbox showcased an interesting line-up. Uri Gershuni’s The Blue Hour describes the artist’s trip following in the footsteps of William Henry Fox Talbot, who invented photography. However, the trip was done virtually on Google Maps. Gershuni navigated through the English village of Lacock, where Talbot lived, and neatly laid out the images from the map in black and white. The distortion of the images simulates, although coincidentally, early photographic images.
The fair was also a great opportunity to treasure hunt well-crafted yet reasonably priced art pieces. Kayrock displayed a great collection of screenprint works made by emerging artists, while Cinders featured a few one-and-only editions handmade by artists. ottoGraphic presented charming picture books; each page is worth framing.
Valiz introduced a great selection of books on the latest art discourse. The covers, fonts, and paper stock are carefully chosen; the explicit choice of book design only comes from publishers who know that the experience of reading does matter, especially when the books are related to art.
Of course, the fair was heaven for people who were seeking indie art books, too. The Office of Culture and Design carried an intriguing book on how to knit basketball nets for your community, while Desert Island presented comic books beyond your imagination, combining triviality and offensiveness in a manner that will leave readers either delighted or disgusted.
In the end, the New York Art Book Fair was a fantastic lead-in to many upcoming fall events in NYC. It was a place that made visible the thoughts of contemporary artistic minds – thoughts that don’t fit in typical online media or at major publishing houses. The independent publishers are the best venues through which to become acquainted with these eclectic ideas.
By Naoko Kunigami