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High art and yucky cartoons come together at first annual book fair

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

Artists, publishers and authors from the United States and Canada will gather in Detroit’s Eastern Market Oct. 5-6 for the first annual Detroit Art Book Fair.  Located at the Fourteen-Eighty Gratiot Gallery (1480 Gratiot Ave. Detroit), the event will showcase independent literary and visual art publications from the midwest, east coast, and Canada. The fair is free and open to the public.

The book fair’s curators consider everything from traditional artist monographs and exhibition catalogues to zines, chapbooks, handcrafted artisan books and comic books as “art books.” “A lot of art books focus both on design and content,” says one of the fair’s organizers, Maia Asshaq. “So you may have a book with art or poetry inside it, but it also stands alone as an attractive object.”

Similar book fairs of various sizes take place all over the country. Thousands attend the yearly New York Art Book Fair, located in PS1 and organized by Printed Matter, which features the best known art book publishers and distributors worldwide alongside boutique publishers of independent books and zines. Smaller fairs include 2012’s Photo Art Book Fair at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, which inspired Asshaq to create a Detroit fair.

Given the Philadelphia fair’s intimate size — about 20 vendors total — Asshaq was able to meet all of the other vendors and interact with interested fairgoers. The Detroit Art Book Fair will be similar in scale to the one in Philadelphia.

Twenty-seven different book creator/purveyors are participating in the first annual event. Founded by Cranbrook alumni, Spaces Corners, a Photo Art Book Store in Pittsburgh, will bring their recently released featuring work by Detroit photographer Corine Vermeulen.  Another notable vendor is Tasty Soil, created by 2012 Kresge Arts fellow Chris Pottinger, whose whimsically repugnant cartoons of decay will delight children and serious art collectors alike. DittoDitto, Asshaq’s collaboration with designer Andrea Farhat will have their books available as well.

Starting at 6 p.m. on Oct. 5, there will be readings by creative fiction writers including New York-based, California native Leigh Gallagher and Detroiter Matthew Polzin, whose book, “Solicitations,” will be launched at the fair. Additionally, artist Justin James Reed will be signing his book, “Mystic Places,” published by Horses Think Press.

Asshaq hopes the book fair will not only introduce Detroit art and literary enthusiasts to new works, but will also inspire them to create something of their own. “It gives people who are interested in contemporary art a look at what’s happening in the various cities the vendors are coming from, and makes that art tangible,” she says. “A lot of these book makers haven’t distributed their books in Detroit before. There are a few bookshops in town that are great, but not many that have independent publications.”

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