A Life in Books: A Bleu Mobley Retrospective
March 24 - April 23, 2016
Warren Lehrer Performance:
Readings from his illuminated novel, A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley
March 24, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
The Exhibition is based on Warren Lehrer's award-winning book,
A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley. The illuminated novel contains 101 books within it, all written by Lehrer's protagonist-Bleu Mobley-who finds himself in prison looking back on his life and career. Over the course of one long night in the darkness of his prison cell, he whispers his life story into a microcassette recorder, tracing his journey from the public housing project of his youth to a career as a journalist, then experimental novelist, college professor, accidental bestselling author, pop-culture pundit, and unindicted prisoner. The award-winning book is an exploration of one man's means of understanding himself, the people around him, and a half-century of American/global events. It celebrates the mysteries and contradic¬tions of the creative process, grapples with the future of the book as a medium as well as the lines that separate (and sometimes blur) truth, myth, and fiction.
About the Exhibition
The exhibition presents itself as a retrospective of Bleu Mobley's life's work and includes all "first edition" cover designs of Mobley's 101+ books accompanied by their "original" catalogue descriptions, select interior pages, book-like objects, animations and video performances of book excerpts (by the band BETTY, actress/poet La Bruja, and beatbox artist Chesney Snow), and reproductions of books Mobely "composed" as a boy in the letterpress shop of his junior high school.
About the Author/Artist
Warren Lehrer is a writer and designer/artist known as a pioneer in the fields of visual literature and design authorship. Acclaimed for capturing the shape of thought and reuniting the oral traditions of storytelling with the printed page, Lehrer has received many awards for his books and multimedia projects including the Brendan Gill Prize, the IPPY Outstanding Book of theYear Award, the Innovative Use of Archives Award, the USA Best New Fiction Award, three AIGA Book Awards, a Media That Matters Award, a Prix Arts Electronica Award, and grants and fellowships from the NEA, NYSCA, NYFA, Rockefeller, Ford, and Greenwall Foundations. His work is in many collections including MoMA, LA County Art Museum, The Getty Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, Georges Pompidou Centre, and Tate Gallery. The Crossing the BLVD exhibition, connected to the book of the same name (W.W. Norton), co-authored with Judith Sloan, has toured 15 sites around the U.S. Lehrer is also a performer and playwright. His performances and plays have been presented at many venues including La MaMa Experimental Theatre, The Knitting Factory, The Painted Bride, the Market Theatre (Johannesberg), and the Theatre Workshop (Edinburgh). He is a frequent lecturer and keynote speaker. Lehrer's multimedia performance/reading tour of
A Life In Books began with his Keynote Speaker presentation at the NY Art Book Fair at PS1 MoMA and continues throughout the U.S. and Canada at conferences, festivals, universities, art centers, and bookstores. Lehrer is a Full Professor at Purchase College, SUNY, and a founding faculty member of the Designer As Author grad program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). Together with Judith Sloan, he founded EarSay, a non-profit arts organization in Queens, NY, dedicated to uncovering and portraying stories of the uncelebrated.
A Life In Books is Lehrer's 10th book; his first novel.
A Life in Books
In his funny, thought provoking multimedia performance/readings,
Warren Lehrer presents an overview of Bleu Mobley's life in books via many of Mobley's book cover designs, book-like objects, and other biographical materials including animations and video performances of Mobley book excerpts. The resulting retrospective focuses on the creative process of a writer/artist, as it reflects upon a half century of American/global events, and grapples with the future of the book as a medium and the lines that separate and blur truth, myth, and fiction.
A Life in Books
WINNER 2014 IPPY OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD for "Most Original"
"A stunningly unique take on the novel that unabashedly explores the relationship between narrator and reader. With
A Life in Books, Lehrer has upended the modern novel form and its narrative limitations, creating a rich and engaging story through visual literature. Mindblowing... reality bending... a laugh riot and visual feast."
"An ingenious, one-of-a-kind novel."
Kurt Andersen STUDIO 360
A Life In Books, author and graphic design visionary Warren Lehrer crafts a vivid kaleidoscopic odyssey that frames one man's life through not one, but one hundred different books-and book jackets. In this unmistakably modern evocation of the illuminated manuscript, Lehrer's book reminds us that we are what we do. And, for that matter, what we publish."
Jessica Helfand writer, graphic designer, educator, founding editor
"A profound commentary on this nausea-inducing unique moment in the grand transition from Silly Mind to Machine Mind. Amusingly and smartly enough, Lehrer may have helped transition 'the last great American novel' to the first 'great illustrated novel' which is how novels started.
A Life In Books is brilliant, beautiful, delicious for eyes and mind."
Andrei Codrescu poet, novelist, editor
EXQUISITE CORPSE, public radio commentator
"A book-lover's fictional treat of books that never were...
A Life In Books is ultimately about how the sadness of life is transformed into art. The book is about survival, and how life requires constant adjustment, constant compromise, and the will to find the funny line at which you won't compromise... As Whitman said, 'I contain multitudes,' and Bleu Mobley contains 101 books. Wonderful!"
Michael Silverblatt BOOKWORM, KCRW
"A meticulously illustrated chronicle... Lehrer's 101 cover designs for Mobley's books are pitch perfect. And like the best film title sequences, which establish moods or introduce plotlines, these fictional covers are vehicles by which Lehrer illuminates Mobley's tale of success and failure."
Steven Heller THE ATLANTIC
"An ingenious first novel filled with over 100 provocative titles all written by Lehrer's protagonist author..."
Sam Roberts THE NEW YORK TIMES CLOSEUP
"In Lehrer's books...words take on thought's very form, bringing sensory experience to the reader as directly as ink on paper can allow...[Once} considered too far ahead of his time...the times are beginning to catch up to him."
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
A Life in Books
has won 9 awards so far including, The 2015 International Book Award for Best New Fiction, the 2014 IPPY Outstanding Book of the Year Award for Most Original Concept (Independent Publisher), the 2014 Best New Fiction (USA Best Book Awards), a 2014 National Indie Book Award and a PRINT Magazine Regional Design Award.
Images from A Life in Books
For any question or to arrange an interview with Mark Cervenka, Directory of the O'Kane Gallery, or with the artist/writer Warren Lehrer, please email
Cervenkam@uhd.edu or call 713.221.8042.