Arts and Culture

Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh will bring his hybrid genius to MCA Denver this fall

Mark Mothersbaugh is a genius who doesn't make much of himself; he is what he is and -- pretty much like the rest of us -- he is Devo. Best known as a founder of the Akron-based punk/new wave band of the same name, his artistic arc -- from indie artist to musician to filmmaker to film composer and inventor and man who bleeds creativity in an audio-visual melange -- is driven by a yin/yang relationship with the idea that humankind is slave to its own technological advancements, and conversely, to an ongoing quest to escape them.

See also: Postcard Man: Devo's lead has turned a hobby into satirical art

That's how MCA Denver's Adam Lerner, who first encountered Mothersbaugh while researching the museum's Bruce Conner exhibition of a few years ago, sees it. That's also why he saw in Mothersbaugh the opportunity to mount an art-museum exhibition unlike any other. "He's the most creative person I've ever met," Lerner says. "He's one of the pivotal figures of the last forty years, and I wanted to tell his story." Lerner announced last week that the story will indeed be told when Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia premieres this year on Halloween at MCA, before traveling to five more museums across the nation. Continue reading for more about Mark Mothersbaugh at MCA. Mothersbaugh's innate versatility will be fully explored in the exhibit, which will include a full survey of his many creative endeavors and personal minutiae, from manipulated photos and drawings on tiny slips of paper to video works and a contraption that makes music by pushing air through a collection of bird calls. But the pièce de résistance will be an astounding wall of 35,000-plus postcard-sized drawings that Mothersbaugh's been doodling, one after the other, steadily every day for decades. The automatic images reiterate over and over again the mechanistic tenets of devolution, yet for the artist, they're not so different from a daily workout.

It's a leap for Mothersbaugh, who's had many art gallery tours, but never a museum show. But Lerner sees it as both worthy and revolutionary: In keeping with MCA's ongoing initiative to modernize the museum-going experience by making it more accessible, Myopia is just one more step toward lifting art out of the textbook and into the real world.

"Our mission is to retell the history of art," Lerner explains. "And Mark is our alternative patron saint. This is not art history as museums tell it: Museums are getting more academic; Mark is the corrective."

Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia opens October 31 at MCA Denver, with more hoopla to be announced later. For more information visit MCA online, and look for future coverage on Show and Tell.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd