While DEVO was coming into its own within the Akron/Kent countercultural scene, Mothersbaugh was pursuing his practice as an individual artist.
In his first major period of work, which lasted from the end of the 1960s through the mid-1970s, he was largely interested in manipulating commercially available images. Following Warhol, he worked with found images and printmaking, making prints and decals that combined pop and surrealism. Around this time, he also used old medical illustrations, prayer cards, and 1950s commercial images of happy American families. Going
far beyond traditional art techniques, he made his own rubber stamps and used them to make prints featuring repeated patterns of ordinary found images. Interested in democratic ways of getting his art into the hands
of like-minded people, he also made mail art, printing collaged images on postcards and exchanging them through the mail. In 1975, he exhibited his rubber stamp prints as well as his printed postcards at the Packard Gallery in Akron.16
His mail art practice aligned him with countercultural artists of the time. The genre had come to prominence in the 1960s with the Fluxus movement, a loose affiliation of artists committed to the utopian project of opening the practice of art to everyone. In the 1970s, a wide range of countercultural artists embraced mail art as a democratic and visionary means of building informal networks of communication and creativity.17 For Mothersbaugh, participating in mail art circles in the mid-1970s was consistent with his general interest in engaging directly in social systems beyond the art world. Like self-publishing, which also eluded the filtering mechanisms of traditional institutions, mail art had the DIY quality characteristic of so much of Mothersbaugh’s art. He saw art as a means of broadly communicating his ideas about the declining state of society, and he sought forms that were nonprecious and easy to distribute.
-Adam Lerner (excerpt from the book MYOPIA: Mark Mothersbaugh)