DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh at Grey Art

Mark Mothersbaugh’s “50-Foot-Tall Scale Models of Proposed Farewell Arches to Luxembourg City,” 2014, painted fiberglass; each figure approx. 59 x 82 x 61 in. | Photo by Nicholas Papananias

BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN | While a founding member of the pioneering band DEVO, Mark Mothersbaugh has also been a visual artist since the early 1970s. Over several decades, he has amassed a prodigious body of work consisting of paintings, prints, photographs, sculpture, wildly inventive musical instruments of his own design, decorative arts, film, film scores, and performances. Samples of his eclectic practice will be presented in this fascinating show, “Myopia.”

Many of Mothersbaugh’s works were sparked by his extensive visual diary of over 30,000 postcard-sized drawings. Obscure historical information, mass-culture, and Western consumerism are among his predominant themes, evoking the concept behind DEVO (de-evolution), which postulates that instead of continuing to evolve, mankind has begun to regress. In addition, many of Mothersbaugh’s images involve physical mutations. His particular interest in this subject stems from his personal experience of suffering from severe myopia, a common type of refractive error, where close objects appear clearly but distant ones blurry. The fact that his nearsightedness was not diagnosed in his early childhood has left him to relate to outsiders ever since.

“Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia” includes “Mechanical Aviary,” “Finky,” and “The General,” created by Mothersbaugh in 2014 out of abandoned organ pipes and birdcalls. | Photo by Nicholas Papananias

Approaching his subjects with a youthful perspective, his art and music continue to lack a sense of self-importance while aiming to shift our perspective on the status quo. Dada, Surrealism, and German Expressionism were among DEVO’s early influences, informing the group’s distinctive look, which included hazmat suits and their trademark red “energy dome” hats. Looking at the works on display (including the world’s largest ruby crystal, molded into a soft serve cone), one will find that art is not simply another chapter within Mothersbaugh’s oeuvre, but rather part of an ongoing multi-media exploration.


MARK MOTHERSBAUGH | “Myopia” | Grey Art Gallery, 100 Washington Sq. East, btwn. Waverly & Washington Pl.| Through Jul. 15: Tue., Thu.-Fri., 11a.m.–6 p.m.; Wed., 11 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. | nyu.edu/greyart, 212-998-6780

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