By Carlos Valladares
The thrill of art in print guides San Francisco’s second annual Art Book Fair, opening Friday, July 21, at the Minnesota Street Project. It’s a chance for more than 100 publishers from the Bay Area and across the United States to come together and showcase artists’ books and catalogs, and monographs of artists’ works that might not be seen otherwise.
The second annual Art Book Fair is the result of a three-way collaboration between the Minnesota Street Project and two local publishers: Colpa’s Luca Antonucci and David Kasprzak, and Park Life’s Jamie Alexander and Derek Song.
The San Francisco fair was inspired by similar book fairs in Los Angeles and New York.
“We are looking to provide an event, a venue and a market for the great independent art publishing in the Bay Area,” Alexander says. “It’s kind of a gathering where everybody can get together and show off their wares.”
With the fair so new to the city, there’s a surfeit of ways its organizers can explore where it will go in the coming years. Eager to replicate the success of last year’s Art Book Fair, the focus is on making this year’s fair “more robust,” with more special programming and a heavier international and LGBTQ presence.
On that note, what’s sure to be one of the weekend’s biggest highlights is a panel discussion on “Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community,” a new art book published by Ammo Books. The panelists include John Chaich, co-editor of the book, and four other featured Bay Area artists: Jai Andrew Carrillo, James Gobel, Ramekon O’Arwisters and Angie Wilson.
Chaich and the artists will discuss the 192-page book, which spotlights 30 contemporary queer artists working in the mediums of fiber art and textiles, and craft traditions such as crochet, knitting and quilting. It is the companion book of the exhibition of the same name, which was held at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York in 2014.
Chaich’s vision for the book, he says, was to make something that could live as comfortably at an art school library as it could at Urban Outfitters, with broad appeal to academic and non-specialized readers.
“We really wanted the book design to give you the experience of a studio visit,” he says.
He says he appreciates events like the Art Book Fair where the work of queer artists can be seen in such a public, intimate setting.
“I think the place of art-book fairs in a digital age really speaks to an audience’s hunger for the tactile, finely crafted object,” he says. “We have instant access to hundreds of images online at any given hour, but a book encourages us to slow down, focus and appreciate the thoughtfulness of lines, language and how those work together.”
After the talk, O’Arwisters will lead a “Crochet Jam.”
O’Arwisters, whose art explores his identity as a black queer man coming of age in the Jim Crow South, has struggled to find a place in traditional galleries for nearly 25 years. That’s one reason why events like the Art Book Fair and art books like “Queer Threads” hold such importance — and subversive potential.
“I had to ask myself, ‘What do I really want from these — mostly white male — museum curators?’” O’Arwisters says. “They don’t really see my experience; they see the icon of the black male. So I felt, instead of me going to others, why don’t I do it for and with others?”
That was the genesis of not only his artworks’ appearance in “Queer Threads,” but also Crochet Jam, a collaborative art-making event he started in 2012 in honor of his grandmother, with whom he’d spend hours quilting quietly and calmly. The rules are simple: You crochet for hours at a time. Don’t know how to crochet? No problem; O’Arwisters and others will help teach you.
“This calm, relaxing and peaceful atmosphere was just what a confused little black queer boy needed when the world outside was often negative, hostile and unforgiving,” he says in an interview with Danny Orendorff in the book. It’s his own unique way of giving love and artistic consciousness back to a world that refused (and still refuses) people like him.
“I feel very empowered,” he says on the Crochet Jam. “It makes liberation a form of art.”
Carlos Valladares is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
San Francisco Art Book Fair: Preview 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, July 21; Fair, 11a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 22; 11 to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 23. 1275 Minnesota St., S.F. For a complete list of exhibitors and other information, go to www.sfartbookfair.com
S.F. Art Book Fair highlights
“Queer Threads” panel discussion and book signing. 1 p.m. Saturday, July 22, in The Lounge.
Crochet Jam, led by Ramekon O’Arwisters. 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 22, in the Minnesota Grove.
Lonnie Holley and Chris Johanson have collaborated on a unique zine, which will be on sale at the Paulson Fontaine Press table.
Tamara Shopsin will perform “Swingin’ Salami,” a performance piece involving salami, sandwiches and other eats. 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 22, in the Media Room.