The A LIFE IN BOOKS traveling exhibition (based on Warren Lehrer’s awardwinning illuminated novel) presents itself as the first retrospective survey of the extraordinary publishing career of Lehrer’s protagonist, the prolific and controversial author/book visionary Bleu Mobley. It includes all 101 “first edition” cover designs accompanied by “original” catalogue descriptions (with brief background information based on revelations made in A LIFE IN BOOKS). It also includes Mobley’s earliest books, “composed” in the letterpress shop of his junior high school, as well as “reproductions” of select interior spreads, Mobley’s book-like objects such as the illuminated book lamps, the book toys, toilet paper poetry roll, book clothing and accessories, and the Flying Book Project. There are videos of filmed performances (of Bleu Mobley book excerpts), and animations of pop-up books, and ‘spots’ featuring individual Bleu Mobley titles. There are also artifacts such as letters, notebooks, flyers, articles, and the actual microcassette tapes that became the narrative foundation of A LIFE IN BOOKS. The book serves as an exhibition catalogue. (The Exhibition Award from the College Book Art Association was given particularly for the way “video is used as an extension of the printed book.”)
While the book presents a very personal and complex portrait of Bleu Mobley and the wide array of characters who inhabit his life and books, the exhibition “celebrates the creative output of an American master who, in so many ways, and for so long, helped us better understand our own lives, relationships, institutions, and a half-century of American/global events.” The funny, thought-provoking, beautiful, meta exhibition experience tells the story of a [fictional] writer/artist through a chronological overview of his life’s work. Collectively, the covers and catalogue descriptions and media components paint a searing commentary on fifty years of American/ global events. The interweaving themes that run through Mobley’s story include: the lines that separate and blur truth, myth, and fiction; the seduction of commercial success; the paradoxes of American politics and media culture; the creative process; crime, punishment, and redemption; and the changing shape of literacy and the future of the book.
The exhibition also can function as a resource and source of inspiration for colleges and classes using the book as a text and point of departure for creating their own works of visual literature. The exhibition is designed to travel easily and inexpensively. It fits into one crate and one box, ships at a reasonable cost, and is relatively easy to install. The exhibition is ideal for museums, non-profit galleries, university galleries and museums, art and literary centers, libraries and bookstores with exhibition spaces. The art and text panels are archival inkjet prints mounted onto acid-free Sintra board, with velcroed wood backing mounts. Book the show now for dates starting in 2017 and arrange for Warren Lehrer to do a reading/performance. inquire about booking the show
Here are photographs from the premiere installation of the A LIFE IN BOOKS exhibition at the O’Kane Gallery at the University of Houston, Downtown. Photos by Warren Lehrer and Mark Cervenka.