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Exhibition Reviews

Cara Barer’s ‘Bibliomania’: A Captivating Exploration of the Transitory Nature of Books



Exhibition on View: May 18th – June 22nd, 2024

Cara Barer’s latest exhibition, “Bibliomania,” at the Catherine Couturier Gallery in Houston, presents a profound contemplation on the ephemeral nature of books in the digital age. Running through June 22, this showcase of Barer’s unique artistry invites viewers to reconsider the intrinsic value and beauty of printed media, reimagined through a creative lens that blurs the line between sculpture and photography.

Tie Dye, 2013. Archival pigment print. 36 x 36 inches

The Art of Transformation

At the heart of Barer’s work lies the concept of transformation. She salvages abandoned and obsolete books, often found in second-hand stores or even dumpsters, and metamorphoses them into stunning sculptural forms. These sculptures, often colorful and intricate, are then captured through her lens, resulting in photographs that serve as the final artistic statement.

Barer’s process is meticulous and evocative. By manipulating the physical form of the books—dyeing, folding, and sometimes tearing—she breathes new life into what was once considered discarded. This act of transformation is not just a physical change but a conceptual one, prompting reflections on the lifecycle of knowledge and the objects that contain it.

Visual and Conceptual Harmony

One of the most striking aspects of “Bibliomania” is the harmony between the visual appeal of the works and their conceptual underpinnings. Each piece is a vibrant testament to Barer’s ability to find beauty in the mundane. The use of color is particularly notable; for instance, in pieces like “Tie Dye,” the pages of the books are dyed in vivid hues that radiate energy and evoke a sense of nostalgia and wonder.

The dynamic forms that emerge from Barer’s hands are reminiscent of natural elements—flowers in bloom, coral reefs, or abstract topographies. This organic quality is juxtaposed with the inherent rigidity of the book as an object, creating a tension that is both visually arresting and intellectually stimulating. The photographs themselves are a testament to Barer’s skill in composition and lighting, capturing the intricate details and textures of the sculptures in a way that feels almost three-dimensional.

Carousel, 2007 Archival pigment print 24 x 24 inches

Reflection on Obsolescence

“Bibliomania” is more than just a celebration of artistic creativity; it is a poignant commentary on obsolescence. In an era where digital media is rapidly supplanting physical books, Barer’s work serves as a reminder of the tactile and visual pleasures that printed media can offer. Her transformed books, no longer serving their original purpose, find a new lease on life as objects of art.

This reflection on obsolescence extends beyond the realm of books to a broader contemplation of material culture. Barer’s work invites us to question what we discard and why, urging a reconsideration of value in a society that often prioritizes the new and the efficient over the old and the labor-intensive.

Emotional Resonance

The emotional resonance of Barer’s work is palpable. For many, books are more than just vessels of information—they are companions, memories, and symbols of personal growth. By transforming these objects, Barer taps into a deep well of collective nostalgia and sentimentality. Each piece in “Bibliomania” tells a story, not just of its own transformation, but of the countless hands that once held it, the eyes that read its pages, and the minds that were influenced by its contents.

This emotional layer adds a richness to the exhibition, making it not just a visual feast but also a deeply personal experience for viewers. It is an exhibition that encourages not just viewing but also introspection, inviting us to consider our own relationships with books and the broader concept of materiality.

Wildflowers 2, 2014 Archival pigment print 36 x 36 inches


Cara Barer’s “Bibliomania” is a masterful blend of artistry, concept, and emotional depth. It is an exhibition that challenges us to see the beauty in the overlooked and the potential in the discarded. Through her transformative process, Barer elevates obsolete books to objects of contemplation and wonder, offering a fresh perspective on the role of physical media in a digital world.

For those who appreciate the intersection of art and literature, “Bibliomania” is a must-see. It is an exhibition that not only showcases Barer’s exceptional talent but also provokes thoughtful dialogue on the nature of books and their place in our lives. As we continue to navigate an increasingly digital landscape, Barer’s work serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring power of the tangible and the tactile.