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“Art” Gallery Life

Shows + Private Events, 2009-13, RIP

1819 Central Gallery serves as a music venue and gallery space
By Sean Rosner June 2010 | eReview


Mark Mothersbaugh, "Kill and Be Killed Boxer" (2 of 3), 22" x 14.25". Image: courtesy of the artist

Mark Mothersbaugh, “Kill and Be Killed Boxer” (2 of 3), 22″ x 14.25″. Image: courtesy of the artist

Most people associate Mark Mothersbaugh with his work as lead singer of long-running rock band DEVO. But in addition to his musical talents (he’s had success producing music for movies, television shows, and video games as well), Mothersbaugh also produces visual art across several media.

“As much as I’m a fan of the Internet, I still have a sensuous, tactile side to me, and I still love physical objects,” Mothersbaugh told a crowd at the gallery during a video-chat Q&A.

And now some of his work is available for view in Kansas City, Missouri. Mothersbaugh’s exhibition, We Must Repeat!, is up through July 1 at the 1819 Central Gallery, 1819 Central St.

The foundation of Mothersbaugh’s solo art career dates back to more than 30 years ago. While on tour with DEVO, Mothersbaugh would often spend his downtime illustrating on postcards to send to friends back home. Though the card’s recipients were originally the only intended viewers, Mothersbaugh eventually decided to share them with the public, holding art exhibitions throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Then, in 2003, Mothersbaugh showcased digital prints of his postcards in the Homefront Invasion gallery tour, which had stops throughout the United States, Canada, and England. Mothersbaugh followed in 2004 with the Beautiful Mutants gallery tour, which featured his haunting manipulated recreations of 19th-century photographs. Mothersbaugh has been showcasing his work from both exhibitions, as well as some more recent canvas paintings, around the country ever since.

Mothersbaugh’s exhibition at the 1819 Central Gallery pulls from his collection of postcards. His Lichtenstein-esque pop art is heavy with sci-fi imagery (robots, lasers, x-ray goggles), and brings to mind early-90s-era MTV cartoons. The exhibition consists of five prints, as well as several nylon rugs sporting Mothersbaugh’s illustrations. Both the prints and the rugs are available for purchase. The gallery opened the exhibition at the May First Fridays event, when it hosted a video-chat Q&A session with Mothersbaugh.

Music-inspired gallery space

The 1819 Central Gallery itself is a fairly new addition to the Kansas City arts scene. The gallery has been housing 60-day exhibitions since July 2009. The building is comprised of three sections: Guitar Syndicate, a store that sells guitars and other musical equipment, the gallery space, and a recording studio in the rear of the building. Co-owner Scott Burnett says all the exhibitions in the gallery have and will be music-related in some way, whether they consist of art by musicians, depicting musical themes or just inspired by music. Previous exhibitions at the gallery have included works by Lisa Law, who displayed her photographs of 1960s rock icons, and Carl Lundgren, who was a prominent 1960s concert-poster artist in Detroit.

Burnett says there were originally no plans to have a gallery in the building. He and his colleagues were focused mainly on operating the recording studio, but this left them with a large portion of the building still vacant. In Kansas City’s Crossroads district, this naturally led to inquiries about whether the empty space would host art exhibitions. And eventually that’s what the building owners decided to do. Burnett took his past experience in putting on concerts and applied it to booking visual artists.

“We just kind of made a wish list and started making phone calls,” Burnett says.

Things have been picking up considerably for the space. Burnett says that now, instead of going out of his way to contact artists about showing their work in the gallery, he is beginning to get artists coming to him and asking to exhibit there. In the future, he expects to work with even more prominent musicians and artists.

Burnett sees similarities between booking bands and booking artists, and views the gallery space as somewhat of a music venue. He says the exhibitions allow him to move beyond the single-night excitement of a concert. The artwork is a way for people to see famous musicians from another angle, whether that be Mothersbaugh’s visualizations or Law’s behind-the-scenes photographs of Bob Dylan.

“It’s just another outlet to get music in front of people,” Burnett says. “If I have to go the visual route to get people dialed in, I will.”

Working with such well-known artists and subject matter has been a big help to the gallery. Burnett says he’s had people who are completely unaware of the Kansas City art scene come into his gallery to view the music-themed art.

“We’ve had people come into this gallery and say, ‘I came for this show. I didn’t even know First Fridays existed,'” Burnett says.

While the gallery will continue to host its 60-day exhibitions, Burnett hopes to use the building as more of an events space in the future. He and his colleagues have already hosted a small number of music performances there, and he says he would like to start doing pre-parties for area concerts as well. Mainly, though, he says he simply wants to help develop community and promote music and art in Kansas City.

Mark Mothersbaugh Q&A

Greg Ginn & The Texas Corrugators

Danny Joe Gibson show (one of many!!)

Flying Balalaika Brothers {Zhenya Kolykhanov (prima balalaika, main vocals), Aleksander Kouznetzov (bass balalaika, vocals), Segrei Vashchenko (prima balalaikas, vocals)} performing live at 1819 Central Gallery & Event Space in Kansas City, MO. UNCUT: The Rock Poster Art of Jeff Wood