artist / participant
MCA Denver is proud to present the first retrospective of the work of Mark Mothersbaugh from the beginning of his career in the early 1970s through the present.
Co-founder of the New Wave band DEVO, Mothersbaugh has been making art since before the band’s inception in the early 1970s and continues to the present. This body of work presents a unique combination of cultural criticism and personal expression through drawings, films, paintings, sculpture and music. But more than that, his work provides a missing link in the history of contemporary art and culture. At once an artist, musician, and tinkerer, he offers a key to understanding the current state of art, with its hybridity, subjectivity and fluid boundaries. Mothersbaugh’s work reveals his unique artistic voice and also asserts his role in the intersecting legacies that have formed contemporary culture.
Almost all of Mothersbaugh’s visual art originates with drawings on postcards, which he has been producing daily since the 1970s. The drawings are filled with fantastical characters and surreal settings. The drawings on these postcards are mainly rendered in pen and ink in an impish comic book style, which grew out of the Underground Comix movement that spread throughout the counterculture of the late 1960s and early 70s. His postcards, which now exceed 30,000, provide the basic imagery for his paintings, prints, rugs, videos and sculptures.
Throughout his career, Mothersbaugh’s work has both embraced handmade qualities and also incorporated the slick elements of consumer culture. With a continuous assault on the de-humanizing nature of our highly technological society, Mothersbaugh’s work asks the question: how can we be ourselves in the face of an impersonal, consumer-driven society? But the answer is complex. Mothersbaugh doesn’t simply advocate for a war of the organic against the mechanistic. He also doesn’t maintain a simple, ironic distance from the synthetic nature of modern society. Instead, the artist insists that there is the room for individual creativity in consumer society. Sometimes the picture he paints is dark and cynical and sometimes playful and light, but he always makes the case that it is possible to find personal pleasure and artistic expression in the realms of both technology and the handmade. The band DEVO, with its homespun robotic image, is one articulation of that aesthetic vision, which takes a multitude of forms in Mothersbaugh’s larger body of work.
Taken together, this incredibly unified body of work reveals the artist’s persistent attempt to navigate between the conflicting forces of cynicism and freedom, and irony and originality. Like his early work with DEVO, Mothersbaugh explores the complex relationship between what is synthetic and what is authentic. Mark Mothersbaugh was born in 1950 in Akron, Ohio. Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia will be presented throughout the entire MCA Denver building.