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Five Highlights from the Chicago Art Book Fair 2017

The first Chicago Art Book Fair, running from November 16-19, provided a platform for new initiatives and varied paths within the world of arts publishing. The fair took place in multiple rooms of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, but also encompassed offsite programming and after-parties. One of the most unique things about the Chicago Art Book Fair was the range of vendors. The public fair featured an international group of over 100 arts publishers, small presses, printmakers, comics artists, book artists, and zinemakers.

Five Chicago Art Book Fair Highlights:

1. Meekling Press

Meekling Press is a Chicago-based press that specializes in collaborating with authors through the entire design process, from conception to production. This approach to publishing is significantly more intimate than other methods. Their projects range from producing publishing-related events, postcards, and mini-novels, all the way to e-books and short stories.

Meekling Press founders from right to left: Anne Yoder, Nicholas Davis, and Rebecca Elliot at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Meekling Press founders from right to left: Anne Yoder, Nicholas Davis, and Rebecca Elliot at the Chicago Art Book Fair. Next to them are several books on display on a wooden crate. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Items from the Meekling Press table at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Items from the Meekling Press table at the Chicago Art Book Fair. The books have covers that are off-white with purple, yellow, red, or green triangles on it. One book has the words, “Ode To Absorption,” on the cover. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Items from the Meekling Press table at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Items from the Meekling Press table at the Chicago Art Book Fair, which include business cards, a mailing list, and an assortment of small books. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Items from the Meekling Press table at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Items from the Meekling Press table at the Chicago Art Book Fair. The item in the center says, “Ode To Absorption,” and has an off white and muted blue cover. The item to its right has different shades of blue and green on its cover, and the item on the left has yellow along with text on the cover. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

2. Mystery Spot Books 

Mystery Spot Books is a Minneapolis-based press that creates short-run artist books and zines. Named after the tourist trap attractions that prevail on road trip landscapes, this press focuses on books that document and celebrate the intricacies of site-specific moments in our landscape. Their projects include exhibition-specific books, visual music albums, and photo books.

Chad Rutter of Mystery Spot Books at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Chad Rutter sits behind a table of assorted books produced by Mystery Spot Books at the Chicago Art Book Fair. Along with with different books, there is a large, yellow print on the table that says, “The Forest Gets Away From You.” Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Items from the Mystery Spot Books table at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Items from the Mystery Spot Books table at the Chicago Art Book Fair. The item on the left has several pictures of different rocks, and the item in the middle has a pink image on it with words underneath that say, “Flood Music.” Two rocks lay above these items. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Items from the Mystery Spot Books table at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Items from the Mystery Spot Books table at the Chicago Art Book Fair. The top left item has a black cover that says, “Drawings of Background Objects Seen In TV Shows.” The item in the center is grey and yellow with the word, “Labadie,” on the cover. Two rocks lay next to these items. Photo by Emily Breidenbach. 

3. Jamiyla Lowe
Canadian artist Jamiyla Lowe’s work features energizing hues and mystical woodland creatures with an “exquisite-corpse” vibe. The Chicago Art Book Fair vendors were majority small presses, so it was exciting to see an independent artist with such strong work present. Lowe’s work demands attention and clearly stood out amongst the sea of, at times, text-heavy pieces in the show. Lowe was selling limited-edition mugs, prints, cards, posters, tote bags, and shirts featuring her designs.

Artist Jamiyla Lowe at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Artist Jamiyla Lowe at the Chicago Art Book Fair. She stands in front of her artwork in a grey shirt and dark jumper. Her works on display are on prints, cards, and mugs. The larger print in the photo has a peach colored creature laying in water on a beach, with mountains, palm leaves, and a full moon in the background. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Items from Jamiyla Lowe's table at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Items from Jamiyla Lowe’s table at the Chicago Art Book Fair. These items include mugs, prints, cards, tote bags, and t-shirts with the artist’s illustrations on them. The larger print in the top right corner of the frame has a peach colored creature laying in water on a beach, with mountains, palm leaves, and a full moon in the background. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

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Items from Jamiyla Lowe’s table at the Chicago Art Book Fair. These items include tote bags, t-shirts, and prints with the artist’s illustrations on them, all of which include a variety of unearthly creatures on them. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

4. Rebecca Mir Grady
Rebecca Mir Grady is a Chicago-based artist, jewelry designer, and writer. Grady’s connection to ecology shines through in all her pieces. One of my favorite offerings of her’s was the series of mini-books she created. These small pieces, with such names as “Lost at Sea,” “Drought,” and “Spill,” fold out into larger artworks rather than individual pages of a book. All of Grady’s work has a strong visual poetry vibe, resulting in ephemeral, intimate pieces that were a rarity at the show.

Rebecca Mir Grady at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Rebecca Mir Grady at the Chicago Art Book Fair standing in front of different print items at her booth. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Items from Rebecca Mir Grady's table at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Items from Rebecca Mir Grady’s table at the Chicago Art Book Fair, which include blue, red, yellow, tan, turquoise, and dark grey books that sit between two rocks holding them in place. Below, there are two works of art by the artist. The drawing on the left is yellow and the watercolor painting on the right is different shades of blue. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Items from Rebecca Mir Grady's table at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Items from Rebecca Mir Grady’s table at the Chicago Art Book Fair. These items include a book called, “Strata,” and different colored smaller books along various other items. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Items from Rebecca Mir Grady's table at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Items from Rebecca Mir Grady’s table at the Chicago Art Book Fair, which include different colored small books and two watercolor paintings by the artist. The one on the left is different shades of blue, and the one on the right is different shades of pink. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

 5. Walls Divide Press
Based in Memphis, TN, Walls Divide Press publishes and produces zines, artists’ books, and multiples. The organization is run by co-founders Jesse Butcher and Corkey Sinks who work with artists from all over the country with plenty of Chicago makers in the mix. One of the best things about Walls Divide Press is the huge range and diversity of the works they produce. Titles such as “Critical Theory Cocktails,” “Puppies, Puppies, Puppies,” and “Tropical Pubic Hair” point to this, and the strong artistry behind their production compliments the variety well.

Corkey Sinks of Walls Divide Press at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Corkey Sinks of Walls Divide Press at the Chicago Art Book Fair. She is sitting behind a table filled with items produced by the press. The books have titles like, “Be Cool In The Darkness,” “Mago Mamma And The Master,” and “No City For A Young Soul.” Photo by Emily Breidenbach. 

Walls Divide Press items at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Walls Divide Press items at the Chicago Art Book Fair. There is an assortment of books and zines, which include titles like, “No City For A Young Soul,” “Mago Mamma And The Master,” and, “Smoke, Sand, Stars In Your Eyes.” Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Walls Divide Press items at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Walls Divide Press items at the Chicago Art Book Fair. These items include books, zines, and buttons. The book in the bottom left corner is white and blue. The one on top of it is green with the text, “Tropical Pubic Hair,” on the cover. The item on the bottom right is black and white and says, “To Eat A Sculpture,” on the cover. Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Walls Divide Press items at the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Walls Divide Press items at the Chicago Art Book Fair. These items are an assortment of books, zines, and pins. The book titles include, “Mago Mamma And The Master,” “No City For A Young Soul,” “To Eat A Sculpture,” and, “Smoke, Sand, Stars In Your Eyes.” Photo by Emily Breidenbach.

Featured Image: Image of the crowd on the first floor of the Chicago Art Book Fair. The fair featured emerging directions and diverse legacies within small press arts publishing. Photo by Emily Breidenbach. 

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updatedheadshotEmily Breidenbach is an arts administrator with experience working at museums, education centers, and non-profits. She is currently the Assistant Director of Marketing and Enrollment for Continuing Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and has previously managed strategic communications for the Krannert Art Museum, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the Museum Education department at the Art Institute of Chicago. She has a B.F.A. in Art History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Arts Administration and Policy at SAIC.