It’s difficult to put a painting in the mailbox at Libby Leshgold Gallery, Vancouver

If we’re being honest with ourselves, the first thing we often hope to see upon entering a gallery is a place to sit. Lucky for us, It’s difficult to put a painting in the mailbox: Toward new models of artist publishing is equipped with a couch amidst the surrounding artists’ books and on-demand artist publishing. The exhibition is anchored by the presence of Publication Studio Vancouver, which recently vacated a shared retail space in Chinatown. The print shop and reading areas in Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s Libby Leshgold Gallery supply space for movement and effectively portray a practical form of gestating art book practices. Laying bare the production of publications demystifies some of the art historically heavy and canonical names under the book vitrines nearby.

It’s difficult to put a painting in the mailbox: Toward new modes of artist publishing at the Libby Leshgold Gallery

The exhibition’s complimentary programming included a Summer School for Artist Publishing that convened a panel of seasoned speakers from Art Metropole, Publication Studio Edmonton, and Vancouver’s Information Office. This was followed by a Publications of the Future panel that sampled the forthcoming generation of print and literary practitioners such as Brick Press (Vancouver), Blank Cheque Press (Toronto/Vancouver), and Spit (Vancouver). All this was punctuated by launches, rebinding parties, and talks, plus a forthcoming congregation of Publication Studio delegates from the many corners of the multi-nodal publishing network.

In numerous vitrines are a selection of printed matter, artists’ books, editions, and other artists formats exhumed from local private collections and the Ian Wallace Artists’ Book Collection that is housed at Emily Carr University. These selections are conceived with cultural moments or artistic occupations in mind. One combines artists’ magazines, Fluxus-related publications, and loose or boxed publications like a facsimile box-set of Avalanche Magazine or 0 to 9, the magazine Bernadette Mayer and Vito Acconci operated from 1967 to 69. The assemblage formats of George Brecht’s Water Yam from 1964, a box of cards containing instructions or event-scores (aka flux-scores), alongside reissues of these artist magazines by independent publishers Primary Information and Ugly Duckling Presse highlights the ongoing desire to conceive of the reading of artist publications as an involved object or event. That desire is met by making these art historical objects and loose formats accessible through the reissues.

The redistribution of knowledge that is freely available online into more legible and pleasing formats is also a form of reproduction that factors into the occupation of artist publishing and the democratization of experimental practices, as well as plain and useful information. In late June, Publication Studio Vancouver printed and bound British Columbia’s report on money laundering – a 250-page PDF for the suggested cost of $15 or pay what you can. PSV’s playful presence and colourful covers, and the gallery’s communal space comes as a relief and is a hit within the condominium-inspired atmosphere of the new university campus.

It’s difficult to put a painting in the mailbox continues until September 16.
Libby Leshgold Gallery: 
The gallery is accessible.

Steffanie Ling‘s essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada, the United States, and Europe. She is an editor of Charcuterie and co-curator at VIVO Media Arts Centre. Her books are Nascar (Blank Cheque, 2016) and Cuts of Thin Meat (Spare Room, 2015). She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.