Apotropaic Beatnik Graffiti
(Blank Industries/Mutmuz Publishing)
March 14th, 2024
When Mark Mothersbaugh talks about his childhood in Ohio, taps into his past, the supervening notion is that it was the outsiders, without power or status, the “human wreckage, sprawled on the sidewalks of downtown Akron,” that impacted him first and most. They were attempting to share their insights with him, he says, while his mother, holding his hand just a little more tightly, hurried him on by the mumbling shouting man as an entranced Mothersbaugh-child tried to decipher their codes.
“Because of my early-age eyesight impairments, I knew there were things happening all around us that vision kept us from seeing. Maybe there were things we weren't hearing as well.”
Artists more than most are able to thread their needle all the way back to moments seemingly abstract and removed that inform their later career. Mothersbaugh’s life in art and music is predicated on that unique perspective. He first came to prominence as a composer, writer and performer with his 1980s band DEVO. One of the very, very few artrock bands that don’t instantaneously make your ears convulse and fill with wax at the very thought.
“I drew comparisons of these raw emotional forms of expression to the work of beats, free form jazz, and artists like Captain Beefheart, all of which heavily influenced DEVO's curiosity in pushing the boundaries of what was considered normal."
I think I first noticed the more mature Mark when he was the resident artist, creating pictures that came to life in the Mark’s Magic Picture’s segment of the fantastic and ebullient kids television show, Yo Gabba Gabba on Nickelodeon. The show was created by Christian Jacobs of the band the Aquabats and featured DJ Lance Rock and a cast of toys he carries around in a BoomBox, teaching children about nutrition, you know, what to eat or when to accept it’s time to sleep and way more good advice for kids... The Don't Bite Your Friends episode has been viewed nearly a million times. It was such a hit with my toddler kid, that we went to a personal appearance by DJ Lance, in Hollywood somewhere, and although he was in street clothes when he spoke she totally recognised his voice and got ready to dance.
Yo Gabba Gabba’s 2007-2015 run ended when producer Jacobs, fearing for the edges which made the show great, decided to shutter the production rather than cede control to Nickelodeon, who had wanted to acquire the rights to a wilfully independent show.
Mark’s new book, Apotropaic Beatnik Graffiti, takes its inspiration from his collection spanning some 700 books of mail art he has collated since his discovery of the form in 1969, when he began exchanging postcard sized imagery with artists all over the world. Wow! A visual monograph of sorts, it is visual poetry if you like.
The non-linear aspect of Apotropaic Beatnik Graffiti’s assembly enables you to jump in and out of the collection at any point. Moving backwards and forwards doesn’t transport you through Mark time. It’s much more of a hunt and peck experience stopping where an item catches the eye. And the eyes are significant.
The images selected in this collection were all created in the last ten years, and Mark says “have been the source of lyrics and concepts for larger pieces, both two and three dimensional".
Published by the redoubtable Blank Industries in association with Mutmuz Publishing. Apotropaic Beatnik Graffiti’ will be available on March 14th. Pre order this handsome devil now, right here⇒.
Main image of Mark Mothersbaugh by Brent Broza
Mark Mothersbaugh - Apotropaic Beatnik Graffiti published by Blank Industries/Mutmuz Publishing is available on March 14th, pre-order recommended, here⇒