BABZ, hosted by Blonde Art Books, unites over 25 exhibitors with a crowd of art-loving Brooklynites.
When it comes to art books in New York, chances are most readers look for something new at their borough's bookstores, or maybe hit the yearly New York Art Book Fair. But for an intimate community experience—and interaction with over 25 local publishers and artists—the annual Bushwick Art Book and Zine (BABZ) Fair is both a hidden gem and a hot spot. The 2016 edition of the increasingly popular pop-up proved to be no exception. On a quiet stretch of Johnson Avenue in Bushwick, SIGNAL Gallery hosted the fourth annual BABZ Fair, arranged and facilitated by Blonde Art Books.
Sonel Breslav, founder of Blonde Art Books and the fair’s organizer, is there for every minute. Before the fair’s inception in 2013, Breslav began the project with her own collection. “I was already gathering lots of art books and forming relationships with small presses and magazines by attending launches,” she tells The Creators Project. “At first, this started as a blog. I was photographing and trying to give online exposure to my own collection, and reaching out to others, asking for interviews and collaborations. After I got a small space in a gallery, I had a physical presence—the project evolved from there."
Breslav also went on an eight-week tour through the Midwest, to curate exhibitions for the project. “The fair feels like an incredibly productive and rewarding experience,” she continues. “This is what I want to make. I want to make community. And I want communities to be sitting next to each other, sharing ideas, supporting each other—and we do a really good job. It’s a lot of work leading up to it, but once everyone’s here, it’s really self-sufficient.”
For the first time, the lineup includes a handful of non-NYC niche publishers, such as Soberscove (Chicago), Dominica (LA), New Documents (LA and Vancouver), and Draw Down (Connecticut). And it’s not just a browse-fest. Intermittent shows throughout the day offer a free class on how to bind your own pamphlet by Small Editions, poetry and creative lit readings from Wonder publishing authors, and comic-writer Nayland Blake talking self-publishing and queer zines.
Aside from the pamphlet-binding class, Small Editions’ showcases handmade activism-oriented greeting cards written by women and short but emotional photobooks showing one artist’s friend’s transition from female to male.
It’s hard to resist paging through Unknown Unknown’s colorful series of ghost-written fiction based on real-life Craigslist “Missed Connections” posts. Plus, there’s a series based on most-Googled phrases, such as “How to Divorce Your Mail-Order Bride.”
For a full list of guests, check out Blonde Art Books.