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E/AB 2011


by Tony Fitzpatrick
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I'm right smack in the nut sack of Chelsea, at Editions / Artists Books 2011, Nov. 3-6, 2011. The 14th edition of art dealer Susan Inglett's energetic alternative to the dance of the living dead up at the IFPDA Print Fair in the Armory -- Jesus, I thought The Walking Dead had zombies! To be fair, I saw some sweet new work up on Park Avenue -- particularly at Harlan & Weaver, where the late, great Louise Bourgeois left behind some gentle, even piquant meditations on life and death and sex. Also at Diane Villani Editions are some lovely Tom Burckhardt etchings -- Tom's show at Pierogi in Brooklyn earlier this year was one of the highlights of the exhibition season. But the atmosphere at the Armory always makes me feel like the kid in The Sixth Sense. . . I see dead people! It's time for this fair to update its mission and seem less like an antiquities exhibition for works on paper.

But back to E/AB. Highlights at Western Exhibitions, run by fellow Chicagoan Scott Speh, are some choice, boundary-expanding selections from the bearded Chicago visionary Stan Shellabarger. Speh is one of Chicago's bright spots, and also shows the great Mark Wagner and Deb Sokolow. In a city where the art establishment is largely pygmies, circus clowns and Chihuahuas, Speh's stewardship of this program is a revelation.

Also from Chicago is White Wings Press, which specializes in etchings and photoetchings. Master printers Kari McCluskey and Teresa James have some new photogravures, including McCluskey's own The Hour of Worldess Prayer and Matt Schommer's marvelous portrait meditation on the mysterious Bjork. Los Angeles Low-Brow god Gary Baseman is also represented with some lovely sequential etchings that almost have a story-book vibe. White Wings is another of those great Chicago outfits working in the margins, and does not get nearly the props it deserves.

Also in attendance are the madcap book art collaborative known as Booklyn -- born innovators who are, in their own words, "freaky fresh." Booklyn has been constructing, deconstructing and rethinking books for over a decade. Its project with David Hammons, Global Fax Festival Box Set, consists of boxes filled with reams of faxes sent to the Crystal Palace in Madrid in 2001. Each set is signed, and a steal at $5,000.

Booklyn also has a special edition about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Iraq Veterans against the War. On two pre-publication sets are left, as 13 sets are already spoken for.

Over at Dieu Donne Paper Mill's booth is a marvelous Chuck Webster paper piece -- Untitled / Variable Edition (2011) -- it's gorgeous and a theft at $500. Ilene Sunshine's Urban Icicle, which is constructed of plastic bags from around the world, embedded in paper, is lyrical and piquant , like an ee cummings poem. It's a good deal at $2,000.

Finally, Schroeder Romero & Shredder -- the Shro-Ro Gals -- have a knockout booth featuring Michael Waugh's tweet-based archival inkjet composition of conjoined blackbirds in the shape of the bit "T" from the New York Times. Also Sara Jo and Lisa brought along Robert Indiana's riff on Charles Demuth's classic number 5 tribute to William Carlos Williams, and Ed Ruscha's sublime News, Mews, Pews, Brews, Stews, and Dues, made with everything from ink to condiments. For my money, this is the best booth in the fair. And this is a considerable statement.

Editions/Artists Books 11, Nov. 3-6, 2011, at 548 West 22nd Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.

TONY FITZPATRICK is an artist from Chicago. For his blog, click here.