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Greetings from Booklyn

The Brooklyn nonprofit that specializes in book art, fine press, and artists’ books By A. N. Devers A. N. Devers has written for The New Yorker, Salon, Lapham’s Quarterly, Slate, Tin House, and other publications. She is the founder and editor of Writers’ Houses (writershouses.com), an online publication that provides a searchable index of writers’ houses around the world.

76 Manifestations of American Destiny (2014) by David Sandlin is an accordion book featuring silkscreen and lithograph prints “examining American culture and politics.” Published in an edition of twenty. Courtesy of Booklyn.

If there is one word to describe Booklyn Artists Alliance, the fifteen-year-old art and publishing concern, it might be prescient.

Booklyn was brought to the borough by artists previously located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 1990s, and named after one of the founders, C. K. Wilde, misread the sign when he crossed the bridge as “Welcome to Booklyn.”

Chicago artist Tom Burtonwood’s Orihon (2014), the world’s first completely 3-D printed accordion-fold artist’s book, printed in an edition of fifty. Burtonwood is represented by Booklyn. Courtesy of Booklyn.
La autonomia es la vida, la sumision es la muerte (2014), a series of 19 silkscreen and woodcut prints celebrating autonomy in numerous communities and spaces around Mexico, emphasizing the Autonomous Zapatista Communities. Published in a custom box in an edition of 85. Courtesy of Booklyn.

“We didn’t know then that Brooklyn would become an international brand,” explained directing curator Marshall Weber, who described Booklyn as a part of the second wave of artists that migrated to Brooklyn, and as one of the early book-focused initiatives, long before the corporate interests moved into the neighborhood to capitalize on the borough’s creative character.

“I remember meeting the folks at Ugly Duckling Presse,” Weber said, recalling another thriving independent press in Brooklyn, “and their publications were packed in a single suitcase. Things have changed since then.”

Robbin Ami Silverberg, book artist, professor, and current member of Booklyn’s board of directors, relocated in 1988, eleven years before the nonprofit.

“There were no bookstores here whatsoever,” said Silberberg of her Greenpoint neighborhood. “There weren’t presses. There was me, and one letterpress, and that was it. I was thrilled when Booklyn came in. I loved living in Greenpoint before it was what it is now … it was another world. I can love what I had then, but love it now. There are so many more presses and people doing readings and events. It speaks of the presence of the book in an online culture. It’s essential and important.”

Booklyn has thrived by going against the grain, stepping into a role usually reserved for private dealers. “What we do,” curator Felice Tebbe explained, “is we distribute works on paper … prints, photographs, drawings, artists’ books, publications, and zines. I try not to say ‘book art’ because that sends people to an idea of people in academia making letterpress things. But the majority of our artists are independent artists not associated with universities.”

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