Through his Coke-bottle lenses, Mark Mothersbaugh sees "a beautiful world." Sketching ironic illustrations of political idioms, suicide bombings and war on the back of postcards, the Devo frontman stays true to the band's "Spudboy" cyber-cynicism in his most recent touring art show, HomeFront Invasion!
"HomeFront Invasion! refers to the images in the show that I started one and a half years ago in the heat of 9/11," explains Mothersbaugh, "but more specifically, it is my home-front invasion: I am invading your homes."
Originally making art cards for friends in the late '60s, Mothersbaugh began stockpiling the four-by-six-inch social commentaries in what he calls a "postcard diary." The collection eventually landed him in galleries around the world. What started out as a Devo downtime diversion quickly turned into a sort of postcards-from-the-edge passion, with Mothersbaugh cranking out two or three pieces each day. It's a habit in which he still indulges.
"It just became easy to do artwork while I was on a plane or backstage -- or sometimes even on stage, if I was in a really weird mood," he says. "Most of the work isn't on actual postcards. I buy paper stock that is postcard-sized and then blow them up using a computer, pen and ink, pencil and some collage. They have a history of postcard inspiration, but most are bigger pieces."
HomeFront Invasion!, which opens this weekend at the Th'Ink Tank Gallery in LoDo, will include limited-edition works of brightly colored scanned and altered illustrations in a satirical cartoonish style that, according to Mothersbaugh, is influenced by Dick Tracy creator Chester Gould. In conjunction with the exhibit, collectors of the chic-geek rocker's art are featured at www.mutato.com, a site that documents his domicile domination.
To make it affordable for the masses, Mothersbaugh worked a deal with a framing company to keep his art in the "few-hundred-dollar" range. "You could actually throw my work away and have a nice five- or six-hundred-dollar frame to keep."
He admits that his work is not for everyone, however. "It's not the kind of living-room art you would see in a bank or lawyer's office; it's more provocative. Not to say it wouldn't look nice over a couch..."
The venues where the art is displayed are also less than traditional. "I choose grassroots galleries on purpose," Mothersbaugh says. "I seem to be embraced by galleries that show graffiti artists or skateboard artists. Some of them are pretty funky."
Like a tattoo parlor?
Mothersbaugh has kept himself busy during the past decade stacking up platinum records for scoring projects such as The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore and the Rugrats series while running his California-based music company, Mutato Muzika. But ties with his plastic-hair-helmeted Devo mates are nonetheless strong. "We're still together; I just spoke to Bob 1 and Bob 2. I could certainly see Devo doing another record." But?
"Angry young men are interesting and provocative. Angry old men are kind of repulsive -- like that old guy that yells at you when you walk across his yard. We don't want to be that guy."
The last time Devo was in Denver, many years ago, the venue -- in a gesture of true Mile High hospitality -- offered oxygen tanks backstage. "I don't know why," Mothersbaugh says. "We were only twenty years old, but they were sure fun."
Schedule permitting, Mothersbaugh will once again be suckin' down some metro-brewed O2 this weekend. "My intention is to most definitely be [at the opening]," he says. "This is the last show of this tour with this artwork. I'd like to come out and do something Colorado-esque, whatever that may be." Whippits good.