This article was originally published in the Almanac, 09/13/2016. It can be viewed here in its original form

Dan Rose’s books flip advertising, anthropology and gender identity on their heads.

The Penn Libraries is honored to announce this fall’s line-up of programming surrounding Arbitrary Pleasures: Plaisirs Arbitraires, an exhibition of some never-before-seen artist books from Penn emeritus professor, Dan Rose. Arbitrary Pleasures: Plaisirs Arbitraires will be on exhibit September 26-March 10 in the Kamin Gallery on the first floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center.

With Arbitrary Pleasures: Plaisirs Arbitraires, a 21-year retrospective of his work, Professor Rose takes inspiration from the controlled wildness of Raymond Roussel, Marcel Duchamp, Harry Mathews, Georges Perec and the OuLiPo movement. Drawing from the tradition of formal constraints, Professor Rose’s visual narratives of such topics as the underarm, anthropology, philosophy, sex, motherhood, large corporations, and gender identity take the viewer-reader on journeys into elegant absurdity.

Lynne Farrington, the curator at the Penn Libraries’ Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts responsible for bringing Professor Rose’s work to the Penn Libraries, finds the most powerful aspect of his work to be its ability to force its viewer to look beneath the surface and confront the larger questions regarding the human condition.  Ms. Farrington describes Professor Rose’s process as taking bits and pieces of ordinary life to create artworks, often humorous and ironic, that make visible what has become too often invisible by virtue of its ubiquity.

During his 24-year tenure in the landscape architecture department at the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Rose became a leading theoretical artist working back and forth across two-dimensional images and the way they are transformed into three dimensions by various techniques. While many of his 100 one-of-a-kind artist books and covers have been distributed by the Serpentine Gallery and the London ICA in the UK and by Printed Matter and other venues in the US, this is the first time that The Penn Libraries is showing a one-person exhibit of his work.

An opening reception will take place on September 29 from 5:30-8 p.m., including his account of artist book-making and a preview of the World Premiere of “Photon Ecstasy,” by l’Artiste ordinaire (NYC-based musicians Melissa Grey & David Morneau), a concert-length experimental musical piece for language, trombone and electronics—including video game beeps, NASA audio samples and Benjolin synthesizer in structured randomness. It is directly inspired by The DNA-Photon Project, one of Professor Rose’s artist books.

Later in the fall, on October 20, l’Artiste ordinaire will wrap up the programming by performing a full-length version of “Photon Ecstasy” and Professor Rose will give a public tour of Arbitrary Pleasures: Plaisirs Arbitraires.

For additional information on the exhibit and to register for the accompanying events, visit: