Real estate developper by day and artists’ book and zine lover by night, Philip E. Aarons has been a major supporter of self-publishing artists for a very long time. With his wife, Shelley Fox Aarons, they take a great deal of time and attention organizing and supporting the art community in New York, by taking responsibilities in the boards of several institutions (MoMA PS1 and Printed Matterfor Phil; New Museum for Shelley) in order to support their vision of art and the artists that represent it. Phil Aarons started collecting artists’ books when he discovered the publications that came out of conceptual art, especially the “book as exhibitions” produced by Seth Siegelaub. In order to contribute with something that generates further conversation, Aarons produced several books that document his passion for printed art: “In Numbers, Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955” made with Andrew Roth and published by JRP Ringier, or the latest “Artists Who Make Books”, published by Phaidon and edited with Andrew Roth and Claire Lehmann. Today, his interest shifted a little towards a lesser visible type of publications to which he can actually bring meaningful support: zines. To him, a zine is “the clearest manifestation of an artist intent, because it doesn’t have to pass through anyone else’s hands: it doesn’t need an editor, a designer, a publisher, a printer, a sales rep or a store, it doesn’t need anything but the artist’s hand.” To Phil and Shelley, zines are a way to interact with artists, and to have an unmediated relation with them that wouldn’t go through a middlemen like a gallerie or a curator. That is how they can support directly the artists they are interested in by producing a catalogue for their show, or an artist’s publication that is important for their career.
As the chairman of the board of Printed Matter, a not for profit organization dedicated to supporting and expanding artist publications for 40 years, Phil Aarons has had the best imaginable position to monitor the recent shift in artists’ publication and the apparition of fairs all around the world. With AA Bronson, the former director of Printed Matter and member of the Canadian artistic trio General Idea, he produced his first book about a very specific kind of zines: Queer Zines. Gathering their two collections of such materials, they made a two volumes reference book documenting the zines coming from queer cultures from Straight to Hell until 2014. Queer Zines is “a publication that was about giving outside the mainstream artists and alternative means of “exhibition” a chance for recognition. Zines, and particularly queer zines, with their sexual content and political agenda push the boundaries of what the art world accepts as “art.”

Here is another interview of both of them, which ARTZINES had nothing to do with

Philip and Shelley Fox Aarons, New York from collectorspace on Vimeo.