On Friday, September 18, the 10th annual NY Art Book Fair opens to the public at MoMA PS1, and for the second year running, SVA will have a booth at the fair and offer 2D and 3D prints, original artwork and, yes, books, all created by students and faculty of the BFA Fine Arts, BFA Photography and Video and MFA Photography, Video and Related Media departments. “We’re one of the few schools represented,” says Andres Janacua, director of operations for BFA Fine Arts, who manages SVA’s participation. “More than 30,000 people pass through the fair, so we inevitably meet a lot of people, including alumni, and have a lot of great conversations.”
The NY Art Book Fair is organized by Printed Matter, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the cultural importance of artists’ books. Printed Matter also produces the LA Art Book Fair, held earlier in the year. This year, Janacua arranged for an SVA booth there, too, and sold all of the BFA Fine Arts works he’d brought with him, with all proceeds going back to the artists.
Among the pieces available at SVA’s booth at PS1 is Eight Photographers: A Collaboration. Conceived and edited by BFA Photography and Video student Alex Cassetti, the self-published book presents work by eight third- and fourth-year students in the program, Cassetti included, all of whom took part in a critique course taught by Seth Greenwald last summer. Cassetti’s aim for the project, beyond showcasing his own and his classmates’ photos, was to illustrate how even a shared experience—in this case, a common education—can have varied effects. “We’re all being taught the same thing,” he says. “But we’re all generating different ideas and different work.”
Eight Photographers‘ method of finding meaning through juxtaposition is just one of many possibilities the book format allows. And the relative ease and speed with which Cassetti produced the bound editions, using an affordable online platform, demonstrates how straightforward it can be to package and promote one’s work in published form.
It’s no surprise, then, that artists and artists’ representatives from fledgling to well established seem newly appreciative of printed works. Earlier this month, ARTnews reported on “the art world’s publishing boom,” noting that big galleries like David Zwirner, Gagosian and Pace routinely produce books, and even periodicals, featuring their represented artists’ works, while other artists are establishing small presses of their own, like Urs Fischer‘s Kiito-San.
One longtime believer in the power of artists’ books is MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Chair Marshall Arisman. For more than 20 years, his department has put on an annual exhibition, “The Book Show,” (this year’s opens on Saturday, September 19), featuring original narratives and themed collections produced by students at the end of their first year in the program.
“A book is an alternative to a traditional illustrator’s portfolio, and it’s more interesting,” Arisman says, adding that, by focusing on a sustained project of one’s own choosing, students are more likely to develop a personal, consistent style. This, in turn, will make them more attractive for commercial or editorial assignments, as it demonstrates to clients that they have a unique voice to offer.
This year’s books, created by the class of 2016, include Annie Bowler‘s Born to Run, a compilation of portraits that blend subjects with their “spirit” or “totem” animals; Mikayla Butchart‘s Elberta from Alberta, about her great-grandmother, a Canadian rodeo queen; Joowon Oh‘s A Quiet Morning, a fable about a solitary old man and his daily routine; and Vesper Stamper‘s The Orange Tree, about a romance that forms between two young Holocaust survivors.
The NY Art Book Fair opens Friday, September 18, at 1:00pm and runs through the weekend. The 2015 “Book Show” will be on view at the SVA Gramercy Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, through November 16, and a reception will be held on Monday, September 21, from 6:00 – 8:00pm. Admission to all events is free.
Images, from top: Flier for the 2015 NY Art Book Fair; photo by Martin Mendizabal, from Eight Photographers; illustration by Annie Bowler, from Born to Run.