New York Art Book Fair: The Indispensable Reading List

by Guests on September 27, 2013 Recommendations

The Guerilla Girls at the 2011 New York Art Book Fair. (Image courtesy of the

Ed note: Even we get sick of our own opinions. So rather than send one person to survey an event as large as the New York Art Book Fair, we asked a handful of artists, writers, curators, and designers for their picks. Good news: they came back to us with an indispensable reading list based on decades of experience and reflection. We know what we’re getting for Christmas this year. 

Jonathan Minard

A Dark Dreambox of Another Kind : The Poems of Alfred Star Hamilton

You have probably never heard of the poet Alfred Star Hamilton, from Montclair New Jersey, who wrote in seclusion until later in life when he was lifted out of obscurity and gained recognition for his koan-like verse.

Maybe we found another word in the mist,
Maybe we found another cucumber during our garden travels,
Maybe we found another word for Bluebird

I stumbled upon a posthumous anthology of Hamilton’s work under the geodesic dome at PS 1 on Saturday, and it was one of two books that I had to bring home. What attracted me to the book, and surely compelled the editors Ben Estes and Alan Felsenthal, of Sound Cave, to publish it, was the approachable yet mystical quality of Hamilton’s writing.
We cannot help but to celebrate and perpetuate the myth of peripheral genius because it reaffirms the possibility of art free from ego, of art that springs from a place of childlike revery, free from the corruption of influence. As one might marvel at a rare orchid from the depths of a dark jungle, the work of Alfred Star Hamilton emerges.

Jonathan Minard is an artist, filmmaker, and new media documentarian. You can follow him @deepspeedmedia

Pierre Le Hors

Fabricants Couleurs by Marie Angeletti. Published by Edition Patrick Frey

This ambitious book by the young photographer Marie Angeletti resulted from a project at the Ateliers de l’EuroMéditerranée, Marseille-Provence 2013. Angeletti approaches two factories operated by the French company Pébéo, a manufacturer of artist’s paint, one located in China and the other in southern France. These (quite literal) sites of production are depicted alongside artwork by employees of both factories, ranging from paintings made independently prior to the project, collaborations with Angeletti, and the worker’s own personal photographs which they selected for the book. Importantly, Angeletti also exhibits work permanently installed at each factory. In a brief but revealing statement, Angeletti writes: “I propose you to look at the images independent to their context; for what you want to understand from them, and not what I want you to understand from them.”

Pierre Le Hors is an emerging experimental photographer, with a focus on physical objects and books. He’s recently released a book of photographs “Byways & Through Lines,” published by Dashwood Books. 

Dan Graham, "Body Press," 1972. Image courtesy of

Martha Schwendener

French Theory and American Art, Edited by Anaël Lejeune, Olivier Mignon, Raphaël Pirenne.

I mostly bought theoretical books, but I also looked at the photo books and the radical American publishers Autonomedia (political). I bought French Theory and American Art, which isn’t so available here. I also would’ve bought Molly Nesbit’s new book The Pragmatism in the History of Art, which was at the Paper Monument booth, but will wait. People also went to Matthew Higgs’s sale before the fair, where he sold some of his books; later the remainders were at the White Columns table.

Martha Schwendener is a critic and activist whose writing appears regularly in the New York Times and the Village Voice, among others. Her latest essay “Resistant” appears in the new issue of Paper Monument. 

Nayland Blake

The Sinking Bear, edited by Soren Agenoux and including several works by artist Ray Johnson. Reprint by BOO-HOORAY

My first and practically only purchase at the book fair this year was BOO_HOORAY’s reprint of “The Sinking Bear”. Ray Johnson has given me hope and terror for years, and through him, I have an abiding nerd-lust for the twists and turns of New York’s Queer 60’s, a time when I could barely toddle, much less cruise. This book epitomizes everything I love about the ABF, being a loving reprint of mimeographed sheets of obscure snark, a newsletter that was a parody of an already little-known poetry journal of the time. There are some lovely pages, and the overwhelming majority of the jokes fly right over my head, but I love it none the less: a fragment seized before it fell out of time entirely.

Nayland Blake has been provoking New York City audiences with his art since the late seventies.

Christopher Schreck

Great Bear Pamphlets, Something Else Press. Reprinted by Primary Information

Of the three years I’ve gone to the fair, this was easily my best in terms of purchases, but if I had to choose a favorite, I think I’m most excited about the collection of Great Bear Pamphlets I picked up at the Primary Information table. The series was originally published from 1965-67 by Something Else Press (who are definitely worth looking into if you’re unfamiliar) and featured experimental writings from contributors like John Cage, Allan Kaprow, Dick Higgins, and Claes Oldenburg. While each pamphlet shares the same basic formatting, the content ranges from concrete poems and collages to essays, manifestos, diaries, and un-actable plays. The reissued copies on sale this weekend were printed in 2007 but seem faithful to the originals in pretty much every respect, and at $5 each, I was able to take home some really excellent titles. (Copies are available for purchase at the Primary Information site).

Christopher Schreck is a New York-based emerging writer, curator, and photographer.

A Genesis Breyer P-Orridge postcard (Image courtesy of Primary Information)

Gary Carrion-Murayari

G.P.O. versus G.P-O: a chronicle of mail art on trial, compiled by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and COUM. Primary Information

When I go to the New York Art Book Fair, I always buy whatever is new from Primary Information – they have a new book compiling materials relating to Genesis P-Orridge’s mail art controversy from the 70s [Ed note: In which the artist was sued by the British Postal Service for sending pornography through the mail]. So if I was at the book fair, that would have been the first thing I would have bought.

Gary Carrion-Murayari is the associate curator at the New Museum, and was the associate curator for the 2010 Whitney Biennial.

Clementines from "Still Lifes, Portraits and Parts", 2011 by Daniel Gordon

Sara Cwynar

Still Lifes, Portraits & Parts by Daniel Gordon and Problems With Decomposition by Sam Falls

My favorite books (I believe both published by Morel) were a tie between Daniel Gordon’s new publication, “Still Lifes, Portraits & Parts” and Sam Falls “Problems With Decomposition” which I suppose is not particularly new but awesome. The great thing about the book fair is to see two books dealing differently with similar subject matter (ie fruit still lifes) in close proximity. Gordon’s is beautiful and luscious and the serial nature of the form lets you see how he deals with all these photographic tropes (mundane still lifes, studio portraits) in his unique process of building objects from printed internet images. It is truly remarkable the variation he is able to achieve. Sam Falls’ book similarly provides a lot of iterations of fruit images – paint over decomposing fruit (and some old tires too) – playing with the surface of the image and how it reads on the page. Both are poppy and great.

Sara Cwynar is a New York-based emerging artist whose work revolves around installation (including a recent one at Printed Matter) and photography. She’s currently kickstarting her book “Kitsch Encyclopedia” with Blonde Art Projects.

Project Projects

Portrait of an Artist (Werkplaats Typografie) by Willem Sandberg. Published by Valiz

We came across several outstanding books, but our top pick was Portrait of an Artist by Willem Sandberg, designed by Werkplaats Typografie, and published by Valiz. Culled from multiple interviews, this is a great auto/biography of graphic designer, museum director, and resistance figure Sandberg. It points to the historical intersections of roles that continue to interest Project Projects in our work as designers, editors, and curators.

Project Projects is a multidisciplinary design studio who work extensively with clients in art and architecture. They also run the exhibition space, P!, and publish the Inventory Books imprint with Princeton Architectural Press.

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