Ebony magazine collection
Theaster Gates's Ebony magazine collection, part of a preview of Friday's eighth annual Printers' Ball

The eighth annual Printers' Ball takes place in just a few short hours, but the folks at the Poetry Foundation behind the free event are already celebrating—they, along with several other Chicago culture vultures, took over the Kavi Gupta Gallery last night for a soft launch of this year's "time warp"-themed literary celebration.

Among the dapper crowd were Poetry magazine Associate Editor Fred Sasaki, poet Michael Robbins, and actress Amber Tamblyn (of House and Joan of Arcadia fame), who has been blogging for Harriet, the Poetry Foundation’s blog.

The attendees were treated to a preview of the latest project from artist Theaster Gates, who sent a poem to be read for the occasion (Gates was in D.C. being honored at the Smithsonian's 40 Under 40 event). Kate Hadley Williams, an archivist at Gates’ Rebuild Foundation, described the work that was presented—a set and bound collection of Ebony magazines from 1970-1979, created in tandem with the Johnson Publishing Company's archive. "Theaster’s intervention was binding the books with hot pink imitation lizard skin," Hadley said. "The piece is only a small part of a much larger collection."

After seeing David Hartt’s Stray Light installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was an immersive, haunting, fictionalized depiction of Johnson Publishing, I’ve wondered how their legacy will be carried forward. What happens to a significant institution after so many missteps? Perhaps giving new life to the historical ephemera is a step in the right direction.

As for tonight's ball, which is open to the public, the festivities include DJ sets, an Ayn Rand game show hosted by The Baffler team, a reading series curated by Women Made Gallery, and more. For a full schedule, see the event page.


Photograph: Kavi Gupta