Highlights of Codex Book Fair, 2017

A month ago, the sixth biennial Codex Book Fair was held at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA. I have attended all and exhibited at none, which is my choice. I want to walk around! I want to talk to everyone and see all the cool new books. Every year has a different feel, and every year I look for new work to buy to show my students (excuse). In my price range this year I found a few gems. 

 Emily Martin organized a postcard project in 2013 in which she invited 99 other artists to interpret Pantone postcards and send them back to her. I bought the catalogue that features reproductions of all the postcards. They are elegant, fun, strange, and beautiful, grouped by how they appeared in the originally published box. Each page includes both front and back and an artist bio. (I also have a set of the original Pantone postcards, which I bought to print over and now am feeling inspired again. We'll see.)

 My CCA colleague Brian McMullen did not have a table but was handing out these tiny zines at Codex. A brilliant and humorous look at the internet via "misspellings of 'statue of liberty' sorted by instagram hashtag popularity." It's the best use of info from the internet done as a book that I've seen recently. It's a great build-up, from most to least. Poor statue of liberty. The actual spelling is not even included, likely way down the line.

 I've always been a fan of Mary V. Marsh's drawings and her use of library card catalogue cards and other materials. For Transported: A Commuter Diary she includes "Notes and drawings of a daily commute from Oakland to San Francisco and back in 2011." All the covers of this open edition are different. Although it only has a few pages, the weight of the paper is substantial, which makes it feel important. The drawings are hand-colored, which all adds to the unique quality: no two are alike. It is letterpress printed, to make it even more tactile and pleasing. The printed handwriting looks terrific pressed into the page. She has a sensitive touch I admire.

 Nikki Thompson of Deconstructed Artichoke Press had chapbooks for sale. I bought one of alphabet poems very much about place, Alphabetical Atlas by Sonja Swift. (Okay, Sonja was also a grad student in my Letterpress Writing class this past fall, in addition to being a wonderful poet.) You can see the two-sewn-as-one binding. 

This little book, A Piece of String (memories of childhood, playfulness and coincidences with a piece of string) by Jeong-In Cha, gave me such joy! A simple premise, but a pleasure. The drawings are lively, and you just want to see where the string will be next. For the ultimate attention to detail: it came with an extra piece of string in the bag, which I imagine is in case the original string breaks, like an extra button included with a shirt. Although I have seen books with string running through them before, this is the only one that has ever actually made me smile.

I was also excited to see and handle work out of my price range from artists I admire. You can see images in detail at the links. Sara Langworthy had a lovely new book, Naturans Naturata, which featured layered printing that gives her work beauty and atmosphere and mood. Brighton Press had a breathtaking, large-format book on soft printmaking paper, Reliquary, which had etchings by Michele Burgess, poems by Martha Serpas, and carbon drawings, collage, and torn holes so you just saw part of the image before the whole image. Veronika Shäpers had a stunning new work, highly conceptual and well-executed as all her books are, Aokigahara (Sea of trees). All, I just realized, are related to nature.

I met Veronika in 2009 when I was curating Wings for Words a show of contemporary book art in Japan and Korea at SFCB (she was living in Japan and is now living in Germany), and it was nice to see her again after so long. The show was based on an article I wrote in 2007.

Her table seemed bare, except for an all-white book by Stephan Reich. She explained that the book was about a forest at the base of Mt. Fuji where people get lost, where sometimes they go to get lost. On my request, she sent me the description:
Aokigahara, or Jukai (Sea of trees), is a very dense forest at the base of mount Fuji. It is known as the most popular site for suicide in Japan. The site’s popularity has been attributed to Seicho Matsumoto’s 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees). The text is not printed in a classical way but a visible color change within the paper following the exposure to UV rays. The subtle color evokes the image of someone fading away in the deep forest, at the same time it stands for the decaying process of the paper. UV-light on transparent paper, coptic binding with acrylic thread. Cover made of lasercut transparent paper, NT-Pairu-foil and clear foil. Acrylic box with title and imprint in silkscreen.

34 pages. 32 x 45 cm.
 Edition of 15 copies using Arabic numerals.
 Signed by Veronika Schäpers.
 Karlsruhe, 2016.
Veronika explained that she spent quite a long time figuring out which bulbs and which kind of light and how strong the light had to be. She created a special light box and cut the stencils of the words. So, the pages are stenciled with light. I was stunned by the beauty of the book and of the concept. She showed me how the pages open and overlap, have gatefolds and such to make a more interesting reading experience and so you feel like you are wandering through a forest. A white forest, in this case.

These are pictures she sent me.

I asked her at Codex if I could take a picture. She said sure, if I thought it would come out. I altered my picture in Photoshop so I could see the letters more clearly. 

 And that's what I did at the Codex Book Fair, 2017.


Unknown said…
Cool, thanks for the share! ~TH~
Unknown said…
Thanks for that, Alisa! It was great talking to you at Codex. As usual, it was an amazing event.