Story and photography by Abigail Lynch
Crossing the Canadian border has proven to be one of my least favorite obligations, right up there with going to the Secretary of State and waiting in the checkout line at Meijer. I find that my look, a tattooed and pierced young American, does nothing to ease the situation, especially because I’m usually accompanied by equally degenerative looking compatriots. I bore the compulsory fifty question ordeal as I traveled in a tightly packed Subaru en route to Toronto for The 2nd Annual Toronto Art Book Fair.
I tagged along with my good friends Mo and Francis to the fair, which features printed-matter artists both local and abroad. Mo Neuharth, who runs Art Problems Press collaborated with former Detroit-based artist, Francis Kulikowski to run the Art Problems table on the second floor. The table was adorned with crushed orange velvet fabric and a plethora of works; fine art books, riso printed zines and calendars, screen printed patches and handmade poofs, to name a few. Other vendors carried similar ephemera with a few stand outs offering hand-poked tattoos by Lee D’Angelo, Matthew Scott Galco’s large printed posters that read “JEFF KOONS BALLOONS MAKE ME WANNA THROW UP,” a plaster sculpture of a Kewpie bottle from Art Works Consulting, and a wide-array of other DIY books, prints and tchotchkes.
When you first enter Artscape Youngplace, you’re directed up a flight of stairs where organizers and volunteers greet attendees, who hopefully inform you that there are a whopping three floors of content and contributors. The building is a creative driven community center in Toronto’s West Queen West neighborhood, and looks like a school of some sort. Each floor is chalked full of tables lined along narrow hallways and labyrinthian side rooms, with onlookers wearing sneakers and dad hats, the unofficial art book fair uniform. There is so much content worth seeing and such a lack of flow that made it difficult for me to commit to anything, both in time and loonies & toonies.
After three days of attempting to absorb the creations of some ninety plus vendors, I ended up making one purchase. I followed Lee (@rat666tat) to the Gladstone Hotel, which was hosting Pink Market, a twice-yearly queer craft, fashion, art & lit fair. It was honestly a welcome break from the densely saturated art book fair, as Pink Market had a pleasant flow and manageable amount of booths. When I entered the room where Lee was posted, I was elated at the scene before me: Lee pressing their needle into the upper back thigh of a jock-strap clad ass underneath a giant poster reading “Fuck the Patriarchy” with an amazing feminist-erotic illustration. I ended up picking out Lover Boy from their collection of flash.
As I’m going through and locating links for named vendors, I’ve come across so many other artists that I’m baffled I missed. Guyguyguy, Flat Magazine, Gender Fail, and Gallery 44 are just a few I’ve learned of from my research. This leads me to my overriding judgement of The Second Annual Toronto Art Book Fair, that it was simply oversaturated. I had similar sentiments about the yearly LA Art Book Fair which features well over two hundred vendors, the keen difference being a much higher attendance. These events are to serve both vendors and attendees alike: vendors are provided a platform for exposure and profit, attendees have the opportunity to purchase and learn about creators from all over the world. My harp resides in the fact that both groups were short changed in Toronto.
I tread lightly with my criticisms toward an event whose mission “is dedicated to increasing the visibility, dissemination, appreciation, and understanding of the artist’s book and its contemporary manifestations within the visual arts field in Toronto and abroad.” Through my involvement in smaller scale book fairs, I’ve found that these are the kinds of problems you run into as an independent and largely unfunded organization in its formative years.
“The goal of TOABF is to … elevate the artistic integrity of artists’ books by presenting artists; books, multiples, and printed matter to a wide audience”
The intention is spot on, but alas, the execution fell short. Fortunately through exposure, promotion and experience, these are all things that will certainly be worked out in time, allowing the fair to become a staple in the Toronto art scene.
Abigail Lynch resides on the eastside of Detroit, uses Craigslist to procrastinate, takes photographs and makes lists. She enjoys strong cocktails and has a tendency to get sunburnt.