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The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems
March 18 - September 25, 2016
This spring, the New-York
Historical Society is celebrating Mo Willems' beloved children's book characters,
including The Pigeon, who is bus-obsessed; comedy duo Elephant and Piggie;
and famed Brooklynites Trixie and Knuffle Bunny. On view March 18 through
September 25, 2016, The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems will follow
a multifaceted journey across a career that started on Sesame Street and
led to award-winning books like Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
(2003). Organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst,
MA, and recently on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA, the New-York
Historical Society's unique presentation of the exhibition will highlight
particular elements of Willems' life and career in New York to show how
the city influenced the creation of his iconic characters.
Mo Willems' work boldly and artfully melds the humor and wonder of youth with a complex understanding of the human experience, so it speaks to readers of all ages," said Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. "The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems reveals how Willems' personal experiences in New York inspired his writing. We look forward to celebrating both his work and the city as artistic muse."
The exhibition will bring together approximately 90 works from some of Willems' most popular series, as well as selections from stand-alone classics such as Leonardo the Terrible Monster (2005) and That Is NOT a Good Idea! (2013), featuring original art, preliminary sketches, animation cels, and sculptures. The exhibition will present Willems' inspiration, unique process, artwork, and characters in an immersive and child-friendly space, featuring an imaginative New York cityscape on the gallery walls, two reading areas with copies of his books for browsing or special reading events, and a family audio guide narrated by Willems.
Exhibition highlights will include:
Support for this exhibition has been provided by Disney Publishing Worldwide.
Programming & Publications
Family programming for The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems includes two large-scale family weekends in March and June, daily storytimes, meet and greets with the Elephant and Piggie characters, private family brunches, birthday parties, and cartoon screenings throughout the summer. Highlights include Mo Willems reading from I Really Like Slop!and Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale as well as a book signing on Friday, March 18. Willems and his daughter Trixie will co-present her film Team Mo! on Friday, June 3.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 40-page, full-color catalogue that will be available for purchase along with a selection of Willems' books and merchandise in a special pop-up store at the New-York Historical Society.
About Mo Willems
The New York Times best-selling author and illustrator Mo Willems began his career as a writer and animator for Sesame Street, where he garnered six Emmy Awards for his writing. During his nine seasons at Sesame Street, Willems also served as a weekly commentator for BBC Radio and created two animated series, Nickelodeon's The Off-Beats and Cartoon Network's Sheep in the Big City. While serving as head writer for Cartoon Network's number one-rated show Codename: Kids Next Door, Willems began writing and drawing books for children. (left: Mo Willems, Photo by Jo Chattman)
His debut effort, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!,
became a New York Times best seller and received a Caldecott Honor
in 2004. The following year Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale was
awarded a Caldecott Honor. The sequel, Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken
Identity, earned Willems his third Caldecott Honor in 2008. In addition
to picture books, he created the Elephant and Piggie series for beginning
readers, which has received two Theodor Seuss Geisel Medals and five Geisel
Honors. Willems' drawings and sculptures have been exhibited in numerous
galleries and museums across the nation. "Walking the Williamsburg
Bridge to Work,"his graphic story about his family experiences during
9/11 for DC Comics, resides in the Library of Congress' permanent collection.
Willems wrote the script and lyrics for Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical
Elephant and Piggie's We Are in a Play!, both commissioned by the John
F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His monumental sculpture The
Red Elephant can be viewed in the courtyard of The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art. Willems lives in Massachusetts with his family.
Extended object labels
To view extended object labels for the exhibition, please click here.
Wall panel texts for the exhibition
To view introductory wall panel texts for the exhibition, please click here.
Additional images with commentary
To view set one of images please click here.
To view set two of images please click here.
To view set three of images please click here.
Audio tour transcript for the exhibiton
To view the audio tour transcript for the exhibiton please click here.
Resource Library editor's note
For definitions of object labels and wall text, please see Definitions in Museums Explained.
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