Photo by Veronica Salinas
Photo by Veronica Salinas
It's easy to pass Unit B (Gallery) without noticing it. Besides the huge backyard (furnished with cartoonish plywood cutouts of longhorn steer), Unit B looks like any other house in its Southtown neighborhood, with a chain link fence and cars in the carport. Unit B has indeed always been an extension of its Director, Kimberly Aubuchon's, home, which she relocated from Chicago in 2006. But you'd never suspect the building's spare bedroom lodges contemporary art from around the country.
It seems fitting then for Unit B to host the Trouser House Zine Library. Zines are low-circulation publications, usually intended for a specific, small community (like skaters, anarchist vegans or anarchist vegan skaters). It is a form that has incorporated eccentricity and intimacy so much into its aesthetic that it seems to resist art and literary criticism as we're used to reading it in newspapers and other mainstream sources.
The Zine Library was originally hosted by Trouser House in New Orleans, a non-profit contemporary art and urban farming project that wants to educate NOLA about food and art as a way to improve citywide well-being. Emily Morrison, who works at Trouser House, guest curated the San Antonio exhibition of the Zine Library, hanging 50 diverse zines sourced from New Orleans, Austin and Mexico City.
And by "hanging" I don't mean from hooks on the walls, but rather from 50 clothes hangers dangling from the ceiling by fishing twine. Morrison chose the hangers as a way to riff off the space's domestic qualities. The translucency of the fishing twine makes it appear the hangers are suspended surreally midair.
The exhibition is indeed an "open-stack" library: you're free to handle and read the various zines. They range from the fairly heady, artsy Pazmaker to the beer-fueled, irreverent skater zine Thing Bad to the squiggly, scatological cartoons of The Rotten Pathway Through the Painful Digestive Tract. Some are primarily literary, like Vagrancy, while others resemble scrapbooks, like the bizarre its not yours, which features mostly blurry photos and superimposed, fragmentary handwriting. Some are fine prints, silkscreened with care onto expensive card stock, whereas others are photocopied onto crookedly-bound, coffee-stained printer paper.
Walking around the exhibit, you feel like you're accessing very personal spaces. This might be a strange experience in an imposing, humidified gallery downtown, but feels totally ok in a domestic space like Unit B. By displaying work by over 50 artists in a small room in a quiet neighborhood, the Zine Library works less like a usual art exhibition and more like a low-key block party. And if you fall in love with any zine you meet there, each is for sale for $15.
The Zine Library is open to readers until March 5.