While all of Hollywood was busy attending the Oscars this weekend, on the other side of La La Land, the city’s design community was enjoying the annual L.A. Art Book Fair’s exhibitors, panel discussions, and of course, zines. So many zines.
LAABF is the West Coast counterpart to Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair, and it draws nearly as many visitors, with 2016 totalling approximately 35,000 attendees over three and a half days. The scope of the LAABF is massive, and there were any number of excellent publications we could feature here. However, seeing as it was Oscar weekend, it seems only right that Eye on Design offers its own set of awards to the standout publications and exhibits we came across at this year’s event.
Best Recontextualized “Show Print” Aesthetic: Imaginary Concerts by Peter Coffin, and his corresponding exhibition Untitled (Designs for Colby Poster Co.)
Coffin’s series of lithographs without text focus only on the tricolor gradients that were made famous by the L.A.-based print shop, Colby Poster Printing Co., from 1946-2012. Since 2008, Coffin has invited artists, curators, and musicians to use his blank gradients as a canvas to create their own fantasy concert bills. Over 70 imagined lineups were compiled to create Imaginary Concerts, co-published by Printed Matter and Anthology Editions.
Best Collaborative Table Swag: Actual Source and Wax Magazine
LAABF was brimming with exhibitors this year, and it was great to see designers who shared a booth also collaborate on things to sell. We loved the freebies this table gave away, including a newsprint poster promoting recent issues for both studios. Also for sale from Actual Source was a dreamy, limited edition throw blanket by Raf Rennie, one of the featured designers in the current issue of their mag Shoplifters.
Best Conceptual Xeroxed Zine: Christopher Kardambikis for Weight / Slight Return
Kardambikis, an assistant professor at George Mason University says that Weight / Slight Return is “generally a book of books.” He’s been producing zines at a monthly rate for the past few years, and he explains this was a way to both “create a catalogue of previous works and develop immediate and temporary compositions by piling my books, test prints, and sketches onto the bed of a xerox copier. I wanted a process like a reverse archaeology—deliberately burying images and pages in masses of ink until they’re partially forgotten. Until they break down. Until they’re useful again. Until they can be built into something new.”
Best Vintage Underground Magazine: Teen Angels Magazine
LAABF’s special exhibitions were really on point this year—Gagosian Gallery even had a pop-up tattoo shop where visitors could get inked with specially commissioned designs. Printed Matter partnered with publishing company Kill Your Idols to present Teen Angels, an exhibit showcasing dozens of original issues of Teen Angels Magazine, the underground zine from the 1980s and early 90s that connected Chicanx youth through fashion, photography, art, even pen pals in a pre-social media world. The cover art from over 180 issues was compiled into the book Teen Angels, which was also for sale.
Best Thematic Feminist Magazine: Girls Like Us
Produced in Amsterdam and Belgium, Girls Like Us is an independent magazine highlighting the lives and creative work of female-identifying artists, designers, and activists. Each issue’s content is structured around a specific theme like Secrets, Play, or Body. The current issue, titled Family, focuses on the meaning of the word and how it manifests between, “Lovers, Sisters, Brothers, Mothers, Adopted Aunts, Long Lost Fathers, Half-cousins, Wives, Black Sheep and Partners In Crime.” Founder and editor Jessica Gysel writes that Girls Like Us “mixes politics with pleasure, to map out new routes towards a feminist, post-gender future.”
Best Collection of Street Ephemera: Public Notice by Nathaniel Russell
One of our all-time favorite internet discoveries is a fake flyer for a missing dog titled, “The Opposite of Lost.” Created by artist Nathaniel Russell, the image consists of a black and white xerox of a french poodle named Pierre, and his handwritten statement of defiance, reading, “Don’t try to find me. I have finally escaped my “master’s” clutches. To the others, I say join me. Bite the hand that feeds you. Vive la liberté.” Russell has created dozens of similarly hilarious and absurd fake flyers (see his analog Twitter updates), so we were more than a little excited to find Pierre and the rest of Russell’s work collected in the zine Public Notice published by &Pens Press.
Honorable mentions: Crisis Zone by Ben Marcus, published by Bred Press
Crisis Zone’s moody protagonist splits his time between fighting bad guys in a futuristic city and dealing with relationship problems and a job he hates. The perfect-bound comic is comprised of a two color screenprint and vibrant Risograph palette.
An A to Z of Uncommon Phobias by Sanaa Khan; published by Tiny Splendor
For anyone who’s afraid of forests, beards, x-rays, or the number four, this little pocket-sized zine of uncommon phobias is essential reading.