We are incredibly honored and excited to announce that Tomi Ungerer will be attending the opening of his exhibition, Tomi Ungerer: Chronicler of the Absurd, here at The Carle this weekend. We kick off the opening weekend with an intimate Member reception the evening of Saturday, June 18th, with a presentation by guest curator and children’s literature scholar, Michael Patrick Hearn, to be followed Sunday afternoon by a personal gallery tour with Ungerer and a book signing outside our Shop.
This is truly a special event as Tomi Ungerer is coming overseas for his first trip back to the United States in many years and will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many to meet this world-renowned artist. As our director Alix Kennedy points out in the introduction to the exhibition catalog for the show, Ungerer’s American publisher Phaidon Press has cheekily called him, “the most famous children’s book author you have never heard of.” While Ungerer’s picture books were extremely popular in the United States during the 1960′s and Ungerer was a well known graphic artist in New York City, his work is not as well known to the younger American generations. Ungerer, winner of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen award, is still very well known and loved in Europe, with his own museum in his hometown of Strasbourg, France. Together with Phaidon’s republication of many of Ungerer’s out-of-print titles, this exhibition will most certainly inspire new and old fans here at The Carle.
For this exhibition, we’ve picked up everything in print we could get our hands on to sell in our bookstore. This includes all in-print English editions, as well as rare titles in German and French that are still unavailable (or never even published!) in the United States. Click here to browse our selection.
What I love about Ungerer’s work is the respect he gives his child audiences. Words and stories are not watered down. Why use the name tree, when you can say willow? Why say gun, when you can call it a blunderbuss? His well-known picture book characters are not fluffy bunnies, but a boa constrictor, an octopus, a vulture, and a bat, and he makes them lovable, endearing and funny. Ungerer understands that childhood isn’t always rosy and innocent. “Children have to be faced with the absurd,” he says, “because the world is absurd.” Here’s a great video by Phaidon Press of Ungerer talking about this:
Ungerer’s absurd and satirical art often went unappreciated or misunderstood in the United States. In the 70′s he began creating anti-Vietnam War posters and exploring erotic art, causing the children’s book audience to question and even stop buying his work. Ungerer left New York for Canada and then Ireland, where he now lives. For more information, visit Tomi Ungerer’s website (even follow him on Twitter!) or read this recent Q & A over at Publisher’s Weekly or this interview from The New York Times. I’m also excited for the upcoming documentary about Tomi Ungerer, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough, from Fools Day Productions. You can watch a trailer for it here.
In his essay in the exhibition catalog, curator Michael Patrick Hearn says of Ungerer, “one either loves his work or hates it. There is no middle ground.” I, for one, love Ungerer’s work and I think you will too. Hope to see you some time this weekend! And, as always, if you can’t make it to The Carle, order your books online here (include a note in the Customer Note section if you’d like it autographed) and we’ll ship them to you after the weekend.