Prints and Multiples Fair
The Prints and Multiples Fair (PMF), presented by Open Space at D Center this weekend with additional events at nearby spots like The Crown, Wind Up Space, and the MICA Studio Center, is something like a typical convention, but the expansive umbrella of “prints and multiples” allows a variety and weirdness that can be lost at larger congregations like Small Press Expo (SPX). Rather than focus on a particular discipline (a fair for books only or just prints or just comics), PMF feels like both the zenith of cool and a humbly inclusive hangout. Small scale publishing fairs have it all. They’re punk rock, posh, polished, and wonderfully messy, and they’re where it’s fucking at. It’s what makes PMF the alternative to the alternative. [Full disclosure, erstwhile CP designer Jasmine Sarp is an organizer.]
The PMF is a place where you can engage in critical discourse on design, check out some photography, or purchase, say, a self-published comic book featuring a mob of ladies who are fused into bio-mechanic motorcycles propelled by their own juices. Later you might check out some poetry or a noise show.
And this year’s Fifth Annual Prints and Multiples Fair (PMF V) seems particularly encouraging after the devastating fire last May at Open Space’s main facility and residence, which displaced many of the organizations’ main members, and destroyed or damaged work and equipment. That Open Space continues to fight the good fight by providing and promoting a PMF this year is inspiring and its focus on members of Baltimore weird-as-hell art scene is a great way to get a taste of the good stuff.
The second issue of Baltimore-based zine, Acres, premieres at this year’s PMF. This issue (also produced by Sarp) includes a peek inside the studio of Baltimore artist (and City Paper comics contributor) Dina Kelberman, photographs from scene bon vivant Rusty Burke, and plenty more. Calling this gorgeous-looking and eccentric publication “a zine” actually seems to sell it short. Its full color images and insightful essays are like tapping into the coolest IRL Tumblr dashboard you wish you had. Meanwhile, local presses like Publishing Genius provide a great way to check out literature and art you might not be familiar with—like a local record label, they provide a coherent sensibility you can come to trust.
PMF V is also bringing some of the most exciting people from the small press/alternative comix scene. It’s a damn shame when new and experimental artists get overshadowed by the big deal Chris Ware and Dan Clowes and other bald white men of independent comics at an event like SPX. Those biomechanical motorcycles powered by lady juices I mentioned? You’ll find them in the work of Providence, Rhode Island-based Lale Westvind’s Hot Dog Beach #2. Try and tell me that doesn’t sound like the best thing ever.
Then there’s Mickey Zacchilli, another Providence artist whose considered, messy work visually overwhelms, amplifying the humor and emotions of her freaky stories, found in her on-going series, RAV. And Brooklyn’s Zach Hazard Vaupen brings a brutal black metal aesthetic to design-oriented comics. His book, Inflated Head Zone, has been a big favorite among the attendees and exhibitors at other alternative comic fests like Toronto Comics Arts Festival and Chicago Alternative Comics Expo in the past year. Each of these artists have the unique ability to construct complete, immersive worlds, and not only are they making truly awesome work, but they’re affable and really fun to talk to. Westvind, Zacchilli, and Vaupen aren’t fragile nerds hiding behind a table. They’re confident and excited to discuss their work and they have insightful things to say.
At events like this, so many of the participating artists don’t limit themselves to one particular type of artistic expression. The weekend events surrounding PMF highlight creative projects best ingested away from the hustle and bustle of a vendor showroom. Friday night at the Crown there’s a kick off show with Oh Hang, Tether, Vlonde (featuring Chris Day, a founding member of Open Space), and Gun Tit (featuring Tom Toye from Illogical Comics and a number of other comic artists).
Truthfully, it’s hard to know what to expect and that’s precisely why you should make it over there. At the MICA center on Saturday, there is an animation screening from Dash Shaw, darling of the Frank Santoro school of comics and creator of ambitious and emotionally complex works like Bottomless Belly Button and Bodyworld. His work is beautiful and accessible, and he’s got plenty of smart theoretical shit to say about comics, animation, and style.
The major perk of these kinds of events is the face-to-face connection with artists promoting their own work. Wandering and browsing rows of vendors can sometimes be overwhelming, intimidating or awkward, but you can’t help but walk away from something like PMF completely enraptured by a feeling of motivation, creative struggle, and an overwhelming sense of awe that comes with encountering people who are eyeball-deep in creating cool things.
See a full schedule here.