Bob Dylan’s Mondo Scripto series was first released in 2018, marking the first-ever visual representation of the songwriter’s lyrics. Comprising handwritten lyrics and accompanying sketches, the sell-out collection was featured by Vogue and the Evening Standard.

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Meaning & Analysis

Bob Dylan’s prowess as a poet, musician, and songwriter is unrivalled. Songs like Forever Young, Like A Rolling Stone, and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door have cemented his place in the hall of fame, while a 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature for creating “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” signified his standing amongst academics.

Upon its initial release in 2018, Mondo Scripto marked the first time that Dylan’s lyrics had been replicated in a visual form. The lyrics were originally handwritten on paper and accompanied by a corresponding graphite drawing before being released as limited edition lithographs in 2018 and 2020. Featured by Vogue and the Evening Standard, the Mondo Scripto collection gives art collectors the chance to see Dylan’s own visual interpretations of his revolutionary songs.

Whilst the monochromatic drawings lack the vibrant colour of other works, the freehand style is reminiscent of The Drawn Blank Series. Dylan, who is quoted to have said that what makes a good drawing is simply “the right lines in the right places”, is characteristically cryptic. The connection between the lyrics and the corresponding graphic is not always clear-cut, and viewers are instead encouraged to infer metaphors and deeper meanings - a technique he also uses for his songwriting.

The link between Dylan’s lyrics and drawings is further explored by the Italian record producer Caterina Casseli, who applauds his “visual language and vocabulary”. She adds: “I believe that to understand Dylan you have to listen closely to his songs: his lyrics are about him, his character, his culture, and his poetry. The same applies to his visual arts.”

Adaptations include slight differences in handwriting throughout the series; some lyrics are written in a more cursive text, others are straighter and more defined. In a nod to his live performances, in which he reworks his songs, some lines have been revised, while some verses have been completely rewritten.

Dylan’s timeless appeal is considered by the artistic director of Modern Art Museum Shanghai, Shai Batel, who also curated the Bob Dylan: Retrospectrum touring exhibition. He observes that Dylan’s work resonates with the Gen Z generation, who have also grown up in a time of political and economic upheaval. Most recently, the Mondo Scripto collection was exhibited at the MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome, where it enthralled audiences young and old.