Mitsu Okubo may create subversive commentary, but he also calls humor “the most sincere form of communication.”
“When I'm making something,” says the San Francisco-based illustrator and printmaker, “the first thing I think of is if someone will find it humorous. Making something funny brings someone's defenses down. You can convince yourself to like something, you can convince yourself to hate something, but it's really hard to convince yourself that something is funny."
Okubo, who combines collage, grotesque imagery, monsters and tongue-in-cheek sexualization in his work, exhibits his books of drawings and collages, as well as his box sets of prints and books, at the inaugural San Francisco Art Book Fair this weekend -- joining over 75 artists, galleries and zinemakers in the Dogpatch.
Presented by Colpa Press, Park Life, and the Minnesota Street Project, the Art Book Fair includes artists from NOLA, New York, and the Bay Area, and runs Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24, at 1275 Minnesota Street, a sweeping venue that houses eleven galleries and temporary exhibition spaces.
Okubo's dark humor is just one among the Art Book Fair's wide swath of styles and mediums, from installation artists and printmakers to punk rock curators.
Juan Capistrán and Hazel Mandujano of the gallery Mandujano_Cell in Inglewood, Los Angeles, are appearing at the fair to display the work of some of their favorite artists and collaborators. The pair of artists and curators went to Otis College of Art and Design and grew up with punk rock and DIY culture, and have taken that sensibility and applied it to their work and gallery.
The focus of Mandujano_Cell ranges from art installation to more conceptual work. At the fair they'll show sculptures, limited-edition books, readers with essays, filmographies, and discographies, as well as video work and photographs. "Our stuff will definitely look DIY," says Mandujano.
"We have a wide brush that we have access to,” Capistrán elaborates. “Both of us have navigated these multiple DIY, punk subcultures, riot grrrl, art and graphic design, and what we'll produce here reflects that aesthetic. It's very DIY and at the same time, very well-crafted, highly designed and highly curated."
Dena Beard, the executive director of The Lab, a combination art gallery and performance space that bills itself as "a safe space for dissonance in San Francisco," will also be at the fair. The Lab's programming involves four residencies per year, ranging from artists creating performances on the "machinations of capital" in the alcohol, sugar, and tobacco industries to the history of 21st Century guitar, exploring forms from experimental to folk.
When describing the work she'll bring to the fair, Beard says, "What we try to do is have as much energy and animation in our media presentations as possible. So I'm imagining that we'll have a pile of screens with lots of moving targets to follow, lots of recordings of past performances, and that look into our future programming." Additionally, the Lab will pre-sell LPs of the Oakland noise-reggaeton group Las Sucias (recorded live at the Lab), and Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon's experimental project that documents and recreates the sounds of the Berkeley Art Museum.
Graham Holoch and Megan Cerminero run Eggy Press, a print and publishing house based in Berkeley once described as a press that puts out "ironic, skater-punk art."
"The work itself is social commentary,” Holoch says. “There's interest in zine culture, for myself -- both of my parents are punk and I grew up with it -- and everything we make is made with machines and technologies that are readily available."
For example, the group's Kate Bush stickers were the idea of James Sinclair, one of the collaborators of the group. “He used the Reagan/Bush font for their second term and campaign, and he reformatted it to be a Kate Bush sticker as sort of a frustration with politics,” Holoch says. “But also he's a very big Kate Bush fan. Every time we're at karaoke, he always picks her."
At the fair, Eggy Press will show prints, zines, limited edition readers, all kinds of paper ephemera, and buckets (literally) that serve as ironic tote bags at their booth -- so if you need buckets of irony and inspiration, be sure to stop by.
In addition to exhibiting artists and galleries, the fair also boasts artist talks all weekend, ranging from Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Dave King.
Whether it's zines, art installations, limited edition readers, collages, or Kate Bush stickers, the fair brings the creative voices of dissonance, social commentary, and irony together – and makes art accessible. What could be more punk rock?
The SF Art Book Fair runs July 22-23 at 1275 Minnesota St., San Francisco. For more details, see here.