"Spinning Yarns with Mark Mothersbaugh"

Recently on view in the Scion Installation art space in Culver City’s Arts District in Los Angeles were works by Mark Mothersbaugh. The new 4500 square ft. warehouse space held Mothersbaugh’s custom-printed rugs in an exhibition titled “Rugs During Wartime and Peacetime.” Mothersbaugh recent spoke about his new works, time with the band DEVO, and making art today with ex-fashion & textile designer-turned-gallery owner; Freddi Cerasoli. Read article below.

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When you Google Mark Mothersbaugh what comes up are two pages that list Wikipedia- style unconfirmed details regarding; the early discovery that he needed glasses, he was nearsighted and legally blind; his attendance of the Kent State art school, where he met Jerry Casale and Bob Lewis creating “devolution,” -their grassroots response to campus shootings by law enforcement officers that would close their school. “Devolution” eventually (d)evolved into “Devo” – an amalgamate of film, art, design, activism and music. Which leads us to the commonly known association with the name; Mark Mothersbaugh – as the band member from the 1980’s who wore odd costumes and made interesting videos (films) for his group; “Devo.”

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Growing up with pop culture, my vision of this artist was mainly musically based so when I researched deeper and found that he has a very successful Los Angeles music-based company called Mutato Muzika it was not a huge surprise. Here, on a daily basis, he creates music and scores soundtracks for an endless list of current television programs, films, commercials, children’s animations, and even video games. It seriously is a long list so I’ll just mention my favorites: the Wes Anderson films; Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Armed with my basic Googled research, I sit down with Mr. Mothersbaugh to seek factual knowledge about what else is behind the man who is mainly known for his music.

I had to ask Mark if he felt that it was harder in his college days to engage in active protests against the American government’s involvement in another countries than it is for… say a young student at art school today speaking out though art or an art generation movement. His view, which concurred with mine, was regarding how back in his college days the “Big Brother” factor did not really exist on the level that it does now.

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The reason for asking this question is that in the other room, on the floor of this 4200 sq foot gallery, are towering piles and neatly stacked pyramids of over 300 rugs. They are soon to adorn the walls of the Scion Installation gallery space located in the Arts District of Culver City, LA. Why would a pile of rugs relate to any current political question? Well, the title of Mark’s art exhibition is; “RUGS DURING WARTIME AND PEACETIME”. Mark did not just wake up one day and decide to do a politically named exhibition with a bunch of creatively designed rugs. In fact, quite the opposite – over the past 30 years, Mark has been creating postcard sized visual documents in a sort of diary he keeps neatly filed away in red binders in his Hollywood home. Producing anywhere from 20 to 30 of these designs a day, he has created over 30,000 cards, many adorned with visual interpretations of song lyrics. How did these lead to him creating artwork in the format of rugs? Well, he would scan images into his computer and through various mediums add additional graphics and then enlarge the work to 2′ x 3′ in size. Mark explains that he was then asked by numerous small lowbrow and alternative galleries if he would come and show his printed work with them. And for the past 7 to 8 years he has been doing exactly that. Mark’s work is so current and explosively hip that it’s easy to see why he has been successful doing so many exhibitions. This year alone he has shown in many quirky unpretentious galleries in cities across the county, including: Philadelphia, Dallas, Cleveland, Atlanta, San Antonio, Minneapolis and his hometown of Los Angeles.

This then leads us back to the question of how did he come to create art in the format of rugs? Which brings us back to one of Mark’s other passions – creating music. The floors of Mark’s music company are concrete, which can be rather austere and unwelcoming. So he set about finding a way to make a welcome rug with his logo on it. He created a few different rugs, refining the design and process a number of times.

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Which brings us to today, five years later, and Mark has created rugs with over 85 images on them. The rugs fall into two main categories – those of a larger format made from a wool and silk blend (finer and delicate in appearance) and symbolically are his “Peacetime” rugs. The other style (usually smaller in size, made from harder fiber blends that include nylon) of rugs are more durable and considered his “War Time” rugs. His rugs depict many politically charged characters which subtly provoke thought, but in a delightful and quirky way.

This is the first time his rugs have been on public display for viewing. So whether you are a fan of his art, or his music, make sure to check out this wonderful utilization of product.