Warren Lehrer is a writer and artist/designer known internationally as a pioneer in the fields of visual literature and design authorship. His work explores the vagaries and luminescence of character, the relationships between social structures and the individual, and the pathos and absurdity of life. His books, acclaimed for capturing the shape of thought and reuniting the oral and pictorial traditions of storytelling with the printed page, include: A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley (Goff Books); Ouvert Oeuvre: Openings with Adeena Karasick (Lavender Ink); Five Oceans in a Teaspoon with Dennis J Bernstein (Paper Crown Press); Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, aliens in a New America (W.W. Norton) with Judith Sloan; The Portrait Series: a quartet of men (four book series, Bay Press); GRRRHHHHH: a study of social patterns (EarSay/Center for Editions) with Sandra Brownlee and Dennis Bernstein; FRENCH FRIES with Dennis Bernstein (Visual Studies Workshop); i mean you know (Visual Studies Workshop), and versations (EarSay).
Lehrer has received many awards for his books, projects and body of work. In 2019 he was awarded the Ladislav Sutnar Lifetime Achievement Prize (Czech Republic) “for his pioneering work in design and visual literature.” In 2016 he was honored by the Center for Book Arts “for being an innovator and boundary breaker.” Other awards include the Brendan Gill Prize, the Innovative Use of Archives Award, an STA (Society of Typographic Arts) Special Recognition Award, the Independent Publisher (IPPY) Outstanding Book of the Year Award, The International Book Award for Best New Fiction, a Media That Matters Award, three American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA) Book awards, four Indigo Design awards, two Type Director’s Club (TDC) awards, the Design Incubation Scholarship and Creative Work Award, The International Book Design Award, a Best of the Best Award from the New York Book Show, a Next Generation Indie Book Award, and a Prix Arts Electronica Award. He’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts (2020 and 1989), and grants form the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, the Furthermore Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, and multiple grants from the New York State Council on the Arts including a 2022 Literature grant. In 2017 he was honored with the Juanita & Joseph Leff Distinguished Professorship at SUNY Purchase and in 2021 he received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.
Lehrer’s work has been exhibited widely and is in many collections including the Museum of Modern Art, L.A. County Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Getty Museum, Walker Arts Center, Georges Pompidou Centre, and Tate Gallery. The Crossing the BLVD exhibition (co-produced with Sloan) has been to fifteen museums and galleries and continues to travel the country. Lehrer is also a performer and has co-written four plays (Social Security: the basic training of Eugene Solomon with Dennis Bernstein, Denial of the Fittest, and A Tattle Tale, with Judith Sloan), and co-written and co-composed one opera (The Search For IT and Other Pronouns with Harvey Goldman). He co-produces public radio documentaries and audio works with his wife Judith Sloan. Lehrer’s performances and plays have been performed at many venues including La MaMa Experimental Theatre, The Public Theatre, The Knitting Factory, Independent Art at Here, The Painted Bride, the Market Theatre (Johannesberg), and the Theatre Workshop (Edinburgh).
Lehrer is a frequent lecturer, keynote speaker, performer and presenter at universities, conferences, art and literary centers, and bookstores throughout the United States and internationally. Lehrer has been written about in scores of books and in many feature articles and reviews in print and broadcast media (see What The Critics Say on this site). His essays on design authorship, visual literature, and design education have been widely reproduced. Lehrer is a founding faculty member of the Designer As Author & Entrepreneur MFA program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC, and Professor Emeritus at the School of Art+Design at Purchase College, SUNY, where he Chaired the Design program for many years. He received his BA from Queens College, CUNY, and an MFA from Yale University. Together with Judith Sloan, Lehrer founded EarSay, a non-profit arts organization in Queens, NY, dedicated to uncovering and portraying the lives of the uncelebrated in print, on stage, on radio, in exhibitions, electronic media, and through educational programs in public schools, community centers, and prisons.
Lehrer has collaborated with musicians, actors, filmmakers, engineers, and other authors and artists including: Judith Sloan, Dennis J Bernstein, Brandon Campbell, Gogol Bordello, Scott Johnson, Frank London, David Krakauer, Harvey Goldman, Adeena Karasick, Caridad de la Luz (aka La Bruja), Chesney Snow, Deep Singh, Mary Grace Canfield, BETTY (Alyson Palmer, Amy Ziff, Elizabeth Ziff), Jan Baker, Marek Walczak, Martin Wattenberg, Johanna Kindvall, Chuck Crow, Christiane Paul, Vivian Selbo, Robert Winn, Phil Zimmermann, Sandra Brownlee, Margot Lovejoy, Janet Bogardus, Mark Kaminsky, Leonard Seastone, Charlie Lang, Brother Blue, Najeebah Al-Ghadban, Andrew Griffin, Alicia Waller, Emily Wexler, Rick Black, Joan Snyder, Artists Against War (AAW), We Make America, For Freedoms, among others.
Over the last few years, Lehrer has been setting stories and text into animation, video, and interactive media. Animations include: Globalization: Preventing the Sameness of the World and panoramic projections for 1001 Voices: a Symphony for a New America, with libretto by Judith Sloan, and music by Frank London. Lehrer‘s book, A Life In Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley, is an illuminated novel containing 101 books within it. The 380 page, 4-color book sits at the center of a multimedia project which includes a traveling exhibition, animations, short films, and a multi-media performance which Lehrer premiered as Keynote Speaker at the NY Art Book Fair at PS1 MoMA and has since presented at over 50 venues throughout the U.S. and Canada. For nearly four decades Lehrer has written or co-written his books. More recently he’s also been collaborating with select poets visualizing their writing into books, animation, and live performance events. His 2019 collaborative book of visual poems with poet/journalist Dennis J Bernstein entitled Five Oceans in a Teaspoon is augmented with animations, a reading/performance tour, and traveling exhibition. In October 2023, Lavender Ink is publishing Ouvert Oeuvre: Openings, a collaboration with poet, performer, cultural theorist Adeena Karasick. He is currently fleshing out one of Bleu Mobley’s 101 books into its own full-length novel titled TRACE: A Surveilled Novel, as well an interactive book app entitled Riveted in the Word, and a collaborative book project with poet and former NY Times reporter Rick Black. Lehrer uses male pronouns but has always been gender fluid. He lives with his wife and EarSay partner Judith Sloan in Queens, New York.
Some books with features on and/or contributions by Warren Lehrer: