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Matter and Energy

by The Next Family February 04, 2010

By: Jillian Lauren

Jillian pic 1

My husband and I were early for dinner plans in Chelsea and it started to rain. We spotted an intriguing storefront across 10th Avenue between 21st and 22nd and made a dash for the doorway. The sign outside read “Printed Matter,” but at first glance I couldn’t tell if it was a bookstore or an art gallery or an obsessive shrine to a band I’d never heard of called Destroy All Monsters. Turns out it was a bit of all of those things.


Printed Matter is a non-profit dedicated to the promotion of publications made by artists. Their website states that they “foreground the book as an alternative venue – or artistic medium- for artists’ projects and ideas.” The friendly clerk (don’t be put off by the fact that he’s cooler than you, he’ll still take pity on you and answer your questions) told me that there is an open submissions policy. Anyone can submit their book, whereupon a committee decides if they consider it an art book or not and whether it will join the mind-boggling collection of thousands of art books on Printed Matter’s shelves.

I picked up book after surprising book by artists I hadn’t heard of, including a minimalist poet, a Dada-inspired mail artist and a lesbian collective who paper neighborhoods with posters full of provocative self-identifiers. I opened a couple of the books and had that odd experience of seeing an image reproduced from a dream I just had, or of reading a line of poetry that echoed the exact sentiment running through my brain on the subway ride downtown.

For example, I had been walking through New York for days thinking that I kept seeing people I knew. As if parallel universe doppelgangers of my eighty-four year old neighbor and my old boss and my first boyfriend were all hanging around in Central Park. Then I happened upon a book in Printed Matter called New York: Everything Reminds Me of Something, a book of photographs by Sissa Marquardt and Markus Schmolz. It’s a gorgeous little gem that I decided to add to the weight of my suitcase.

The other serendipitous aspect of my browsing experience involves the psychotic shrine I mentioned, which is actually an art installation called Hungry for Death. It showcases the work of the band Destroy All Monsters, a Michigan collective consisting of Cary Loren, Niagra, Jim Shaw andMike Kelley among others. I happen to live two houses away from the warehouse that serves as Mike Kelley’s studio. We bought the DVD of his film Day is Done.

day is done

As I was purchasing my treasures, I admired a little round book bound all the way around with a spiral binding. It was entitled Boundless, which is a good word to describe Printed Matter as well.

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