Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia

May 27, 2016August 28, 2016

Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Joint presentation with the Akron Art Museum.

Myopia is the first retrospective of the work of Mark Mothersbaugh, spanning the beginning of his career in the early 1970s through the present. Born in Akron, OH, and co-founder of the New Wave band DEVO, Mothersbaugh has been making art for more than forty years—since before the band’s inception in the early 1970s.

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.

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.

MOCA Cleveland is partnering with the Akron Art Museum to jointly present Mothersbaugh’s work in simultaneous exhibitions across Northeast Ohio. Myopia in Cleveland focuses on experimentation, performance, and sound. Works on view present the Mothersbaugh’s early sketchbooks and ephemera, documentation of DEVO’s first performances, the band’s commercial and conceptual development, and Mothersbaugh’s ongoing experimentation with manipulated musical instruments. Myopia at the Akron Art Museum turns its attention on Mothersbaugh’s visual art practice, including installations of recent sculpture, prints, rugs, and a collection of 30,000 postcard-sized drawings the artist has created and utilized for inspiration and exploration throughout his career. By visiting the exhibition in both venues, audiences will get a wide-ranging perspective of Mothersbaugh’s prolific output of artwork, music, ideas, restless invention, and distinctive sense of humor.

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.


Major support for Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia is provided by , the John P. Murphy Foundation, and Clear Choice LASIK Eye
Generous support is also provided by the Kulas Foundation, Kichler Lighting, Medical Mutual of Ohio, and Thompson Hine LLP. 
All 2016 exhibitions are funded by Leadership Circle gifts from an Anonymous Donor, Yuval Brisker, Doreen + Dick Cahoon, Joanne Cohen + Morris Wheeler, Margaret Cohen + Kevin Rahilly, Becky Dunn, Lauren Rich Fine + Gary Giller, Harriet Goldberg, Michelle + Richard Jeschelnig, Donna + Stewart Kohl, Toby Devan Lewis, and Scott Mueller.
All MOCA Cleveland exhibitions are supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the Cleveland Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, and the continuing support of the Museum’s Board of Directors, patrons, and members.