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Exploring Do It Yourself Literature

by Riley Lane

photography courtesy of

The Boston Art Book Fair, hosted by the Boston Center for the Arts, in collaboration with Bodega, returned this year after its successful debut in 2017. Held at the historic Cyclorama exhibition space in Boston’s South End, the fair brings together more than 100 artists, speakers and writers for a tightly packed weekend of events. After a preview party on the 12th, the fair opened for free admission to the public on October 13th & 14th.

The fair draws upon Boston’s thriving art and print community, giving artists a venue to distribute their works and reach wider, more diverse audiences, as well as gain exposure.

“The fair is incredible, it’s a great diversity of people,” said Brooklyn native Matthew Scott Gualco, owner of A_OK Editions. “I’ve had some great conversations, and it’s just fun man, it’s a fun thing to do.”

A_OK Editions is Gualco’s art print project, with works ranging from magazines, posters, prints and stickers. His describes his art as a way to explore anything he finds interesting.

“Pop culture, literature, art. I just put it out there, I really make the stuff for me,” he said. “People are attracted to it, cause I just think everyone’s an artist. So I just like, use my imagination and roll with it.”

Art Book Fairs have seen a large rise in global popularity in the past 5 years, with major cities hosting large scale, successful events. New York City’s fair, presented by the arts organization Printed Matter, runs in mid-September and draws more than 35,000 visitors each year. London runs an arts publishing fair in late spring, hosting more than 140 independent and experimental publishers in contemporary art.

The rise of art publishing fairs is a celebration of DIY culture, a time where people have the resources to both produce high quality artwork and the distribution means to reach their audiences around the world.

The fair does host some heavy hitters, and is sponsored by Carhartt, Red Bull and the Highnoblesociety.

Founded in the spring of 1981, the “zine” — or independent, small-production magazine — industry stemmed from a group of New York based artists and writers realizing that the way they talked about their art was drastically different from their everyday language.

Publications like the nationally-distrusted Bomb magazine aimed to capture these dialogues with artists, and now, 37 years later the magazine has become, according to managing director Ted Dodson, “the gold standard for arts publishing.”

“It’s really great, just sharing a table with three other artists, seeing work I’ve never seen before,” said Dodson. “It’s just incredible, just the proximity of new art is amazing in it of itself.”

The Boston Art Fair is a celebration of the global DIY contemporary art scene, and is a fantastic distribution outlet for young publishers. Running annually in October, the fair is an incredible inside look into both Boston and the world’s arts publishing movement, and an inspiring autumn day trip.

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