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New York Art Book Fair 2013

From books just containing commas to sublime photography, our publication picks from the recent event

by Jonah Samson
on 27 September 2013

This year the New York Art Book Fair sprawled into the courtyard and filled the three floors of MOMA's PS1 building in Long Island City. The fair, which is one of the largest art book fairs in the world, welcomes a wide array of publications—from artists' books, to catalogs and monographs, to periodicals and zines. We scoured the many thousands of publications and selected some of the highlights including technicolor nature photos, collages, tender portraits and everything in between.

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"Komma" by Antonia Hirsch

Artist Antonia Hirsch uses Dalton Trumbo’s seminal anti-war novel "Johnny Got His Gun" to create the rhythmic beauty of a twinkling night sky. Having been strangely written entirely without commas, the original novel was re-edited according to the Chicago Style Manual. After the appropriate commas were added, Hirsch then removed all the other text and punctuation from the book, and reversed the color of the paper and the text. The result, titled "Komma," is page after page of white commas sprinkled across black pages, and a poetic reminder of how a book struggles to communicate with an outside world.

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"Follow My Lead After You" by Chad Muthard

Chad Muthard self-published 100 copies of this hefty book of his photographs specifically for the fair. The darkly poetic and beautifully sequenced images within read like the a kind of youthful, spirited but somehow ominous road-trip.

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"Terribly Awesome Photo Books" and "Incredibly Small Photo Books" by Erik Kessels and Paul Kooiker

For several years, Paul Kooiker and Erik Kessels have organized evenings for friends in which they share the strangest photo books in their collections. These rare books that are picked up in thrift stores and from antiquaries, represent the kind of imagery that exist on the fringe of regular commercial photo books. Presented as tabloid-sized newspapers, and published by Art Paper Editions, these publications demonstrate the fine line that exists between what truly awful and what’s terribly amazing.

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TBW Books, Subscription Series #4

Every year, TBW Books invites four accomplished artists working in the photographic medium to present an personal exploration of their work in the form of a book. TBW allows each artist to work with complete creative control in order to produce uncompromised work, and allow readers with an unparalleled glimpse into the thinking of some of today’s most exciting image-makers. This year it’s Wolfgang Tillmans, Christian Patterson, Raymond Meeks, and Alessandra Sanguinetti.

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"The Arrangement" by Ruth Van Beek

There is a glorious visual playfulness in Ruth Van Beek’s book of collages—published by RVB Books. She turns found photos into objects by cutting and folding, adding shapes of watercolor painted paper and connecting similar elements in different pictures. Her obvious manipulations highlight the interplay between form, scale and color in a series of otherwise banal images.

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"Grays the Mountain Sends" by Bryan Schutmaat

Expect to hear a lot about this book in the coming months. Bryan Schutmaat, who is the winner of the 2013 Aperture Portfolio Prize, used a large format view camera to explore the lives of working people in small mountain mining communities in the American West. Schutmaat combines portraits, landscapes, and still lifes into a book so exquisitely designed by publisher Silas Finch, that it becomes an instant must-have.

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Wildlife Analysis by Bryan Graf

Bryan Graf updates his ongoing series Wildlife Analysis with this new publication from Conveyor Editions. Graf uses layered negatives and experimental analogue techniques to create a dreamy, Technicolor romp through nature. It’s a satisfying hallucination, and a welcomed reminder of the magic that still lurks in the darkroom.

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Emmett by Ron Jude

Published by The Ice Plant, Ron Jude finds inspiration in a line from a Pink Floyd song for this selection of his early work made in the 1980s: “Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun." Enhanced by "special effects" filters, Jude's work distorts and manipulates light throughout this series of hazy drag races, midnight horror films and youthful reverie.

"Komma" images courtesy of Fillip, "Follow My Lead" images courtesy of Chat Muthard,""Grays the Mountain Sends," images courtesy of Silas Finch, "Wildlife Analysis" courtesy of Bryan Graf, "Emmett" images courtesy of Ron Jude, all other photos by Jonah Samson

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