We all know the multimedia artistic brilliance of pioneering New Wave band Devo. And many of us know that Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh is an artist who works in other media. But even other moderately devoted fans such as myself may be surprised to realize just how multiple Mothersbaugh's artistic talents are, how persistent, or how significant when surveyed as a whole. This is all remedied in an impressive new volume, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia, assembled by Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver Director Adam Lerner.
This handsome, weighty tome serves as a fairly comprehensive retrospective of Mothersbaugh's work, from his earliest explorations while a student at Kent State (during the 1970 Kent State massacre) to his work with Devo, to his more recent art endeavors. Along with hundreds of reproductions of Mothersbaugh's art, photographs of performances, and other historical photos, we also get an introduction by Wes Anderson and a series of excellent essays by artist Shepard Fairey, art historian Marina Elena Buszek, outréart blogger Steven Wolf (theoffbrand.com), Lerner, and others. Enthusiastically soaking it all in, I was struck by the breath of media Mothersbaugh has employed: pop music, filmmaking, film scoring, graphic and fashion design, mail and stamp art, art journaling, painting, print making, digital photo manipulation, performance art, sculpture, even rug design (and, he recently announced a line of eyewear). There seems to be little visual and sonic media that Mothersbaugh has not dabbled in, excelling in most.
The book's images and essays do an excellent job of showing this near-virtuosic artistic ability, how things like his severe myopia and the Kent State shootings (and Vietnam war) impacted his life and shaped his artistic worldview, and how, for all of his artistic wanderings, the world he's created has remained surprisingly consistent. Wes Anderson addresses this in the all-too-brief introduction when he states: "For 40 years, he has set about creating a body of work which amounts to his own Magic Kingdom, and I suggest that the time has come for it to be fully realized on a humongous plot of suburban real estate…" And he then suggests the only real estate where such a Mutant Magic Kingdom could be most perfectly realized: Akron, Ohio.