Punk visual art

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Punk art on the covers of a collection of punk magazines UK and US zines.jpg
Punk art on the covers of a collection of punk magazines
Flyer advertising a 1980s punk rock concert DickDuck&theDorks.jpg
Flyer advertising a 1980s punk rock concert
Primer festival Punk de Chile, "ransom note" style of typography Primer festival Punk de Chile.jpg
Primer festival Punk de Chile, "ransom note" style of typography

Punk visual art is artwork associated with the punk subculture and the No wave movement. It is prevalent in punk rock album covers, flyers for punk concerts and punk zines, but has also been prolific in other mediums, such as the visual arts, the performing arts, literature and cinema. [1] Punk manifested itself "differently but consistently" in different cultural spheres. [2] Punk also led to the birth of several movements: new wave, no wave, dark wave, industrial, hardcore, queercore, etc., which are sometimes showcased in art galleries and exhibition spaces. [2] The punk aesthetic was a dominant strand from 1982 to 1986 in the many art galleries of the East Village of Manhattan.



In his book, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century , cultural critic Greil Marcus expands upon the historical influence of Dada, Lettrism and Situationism on punk aesthetics in the art and music of the 1980s and early 90s. Marcus argues that artists in the 1960s and 70s, particularly those surrounding the Situationist International artist and theorist Guy Debord spearheaded a movement fueled by alienation and "angry, absolute demands" on society and art that gave rise to the punk sensibility. At its core was a subculture of artistic rebellion. [3] [4]


Characteristics associated with punk visual art is the usage of black or gray colors, and letters cut out from newspapers and magazines: a device previously associated with Dada collage and kidnap ransom notes. A prominent example of that style is the cover of the Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks album designed by Jamie Reid. Images and figures are also sometimes cut and pasted from magazines and newspapers to create collages, album covers and paste-ups for posters that were often reproduced using copy machines. [3] Punk visual art often conveys a rejection of traditionalist values with self-derision that can be compared to Dada. [5]

Punk art in New York

In New York City in the mid-1970s, there was much overlap between the punk music and the No wave downtown art scene. In 1978, many of the visual artists who were regulars at Tier 3, CBGB and other punk-related music venues participated in punk art exhibitions in New York. [6] Early punk art exhibits included the Colab organized The Times Square Show (1980) [7] [8] [9] [10] and New York New Wave at PS1 (1981). Punk art found an ongoing home on the New York's lower east side with the establishment of several artist-run galleries such as ABC No Rio, FUN Gallery, Civilian Warfare, Nature Morte and Gracie Mansion Gallery. The art critic Carlo McCormick reviewed numerous exhibitions from this time in the East Village Eye. [11] [12]

In the early 1980s, New York was on the verge of bankruptcy; the punk protest of the mid-1970s was transformed into a new artistic sensibility. It is in this context that Richard Hambleton arrives in New York. Drawing on the most visceral aspects of punk, he created "urban art" with the aim of constructing real experiences that provoke sensations of fear. Drawing on the poetic terrorism conceptualized by the Situationist movement, the creation of over 450 life-size black male figures in half-lit doorways and on the walls of dilapidated Manhattan buildings sought to provoke fear in passersby. Hambleton worked in the middle of the night and was never caught red-handed. His approach sought to confront preconceived notions of what art is and where it should be presented. "People expect to see art in galleries. The work I do outside is somewhere between art and life," [13]

Notable artists

See also

Related Research Articles

No wave was a transient avant-garde music and visual art scene of the late 1970s in downtown New York City. Reacting against punk rock's recycling of rock and roll clichés, no wave musicians instead experimented with noise, dissonance and atonality in addition to non-rock genres like free jazz and disco while often reflecting an abrasive, confrontational, and nihilistic worldview.

Greil Marcus American author, music journalist and cultural critic

Greil Marcus is an American author, music journalist and cultural critic. He is notable for producing scholarly and literary essays that place rock music in a broader framework of culture and politics.

<i>Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century</i> 1989 book by Greil Marcus

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century (1989) is a non-fiction book by American rock-music critic Greil Marcus that examines popular music and art as a social critique of Western culture.

Punk ideologies

Punk ideologies are a group of varied social and political beliefs associated with the punk subculture and punk rock. It is primarily concerned with concepts such as mutual aid, against selling out, egalitarianism, humanitarianism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-consumerism, anti-corporatism, anti-war, decolonization, anti-conservatism, anti-globalization, anti-gentrification, anti-racism, anti-sexism, gender equality, racial equality, health rights, civil rights, animal rights, disability rights, free-thought and non-conformity. One of its main tenets is a rejection of mainstream, corporate mass culture and its values. It continues to evolve its ideology as the movement spreads throughout North America from its origins in England and New York and embraces a range of anti-racist and anti-sexist belief systems. Punk ideologies are often leftist or anti-capitalist and go against authoritarian and right-wing Christian ideologies.

Tom Otterness American sculptor (born 1952)

Tom Otterness is an American sculptor best known as one of America's most prolific public artists. Otterness's works adorn parks, plazas, subway stations, libraries, courthouses and museums around the world, notably in New York City's Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City and Life Underground in the 14th Street – Eighth Avenue New York Subway station. He contributed a balloon to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 1994 he was elected as a member of the National Academy Museum.

ABC No Rio Formerly squatted cultural centre in New York City

ABC No Rio is a collectively-run non-profit arts organization on New York City's Lower East Side. It was founded in 1980 in a squat at 156 Rivington Street, following the eviction of the 1979-80 Real Estate Show. The centre featured an art gallery space, a zine library, a darkroom, a silkscreening studio, and public computer lab. In addition, it played host to a number of radical projects including weekly hardcore punk matinees and the city Food Not Bombs collective.

Gordon Stevenson American film director

Gordon Stevenson was an artist, actor, musician and filmmaker who died of AIDS in 1982, one of the East Village art community’s first casualties of the AIDS epidemic.

Colab New York City artists group

Colab is the commonly used abbreviation of the New York City artists' group Collaborative Projects, which was formed after a series of open meetings between artists of various disciplines.

Carlo McCormick American art historian

Carlo McCormick is an American culture critic and curator living in New York City. He is the author of numerous books, monographs and catalogues on contemporary art and artists.

Tier 3 was an influential but short-lived 300-capacity no wave art nightclub in New York. Founded by Hilary Jaeger in 1979, Tier 3 was a major venue in the city's underground music and counterculture post-punk art scene, along with the Mudd Club. Live performances showcased punk rock, no wave, ska, noise music, free jazz, new wave and experimental music. The club was located at 225 West Broadway in the TriBeCa neighborhood of lower Manhattan.

April Palmieri is an American photographer and musician who performed with a 12-piece all-woman percussion band, Pulsallama. During the early 1980s, the band played at such venues as the Mudd Club, the Pyramid, Danceteria, and Club 57 in New York's East Village. Palmieri's photography from this era, including of Keith Haring and John Sex, has been included in an exhibition at the Tate Liverpool and an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Scott B and Beth B were among the best-known New York No Wave underground film makers of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Eric Mitchell is a French born writer, director and actor who moved to downtown New York City in the early 1970s. He has acted in many No Wave films such as Permanent Vacation (1980) by Jim Jarmusch, but is best known for his own films that are usually writing and directed by him: Kidnapped, Red Italy, Underground U.S.A. and The Way It Is or Eurydice in the Avenues, starring Steve Buscemi, Vincent Gallo, Mark Boone Junior and Rockets Redglare. Mitchell worked out of New York City's sordid East Village area in conjunction with Colab and other performance artists and noise musicians. There he created a series of scruffy, deeply personal, short Super 8mm and 16mm films in which he combined darkly sinister images to explore the manner in which the individual is constrained by society.

James Allan Curtis, known professionally as Diego Cortez, was an American filmmaker and art curator closely associated with the no wave period in New York City. Cortez was the co-founder of the Mudd Club, and he curated the influential post-punk art show New York/New Wave, which brought the then aspiring artist Jean-Michel Basquiat to fame.

Alan W. Moore is an art historian and activist whose work addresses cultural economies and groups and the politics of collectivity. After a stint as an art critic, Moore made video art and installation art from the mid-1970s on and performed in the 1979 Public Arts International/Free Speech series. He has published several books and runs the House Magic information project on self-organized, occupied autonomous social centers. His partial autobiography was published in 2022 in The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest as Art Worker: Doing Time in the New York Artworld. Moore lives in Madrid.

Coleen Fitzgibbon is an American experimental film artist associated with Collaborative Projects, Inc.. She worked under the pseudonym Colen Fitzgibbon between the years 1973-1980. Fitzgibbon currently resides on Ludlow Street in New York City and in Montana.

Mitch Corber is a New York City neo-Beat poet, an eccentric performance artist, and no wave videographer known for his rapid whimsically comical montage and collage style. He has been associated with Collaborative Projects, Inc., participated in Public Arts International/Free Speech and The Times Square Show, and is creator-director of cable TV long-running weekly series Poetry Thin Air in New York City and its on-line poetry/video archive. He has worked closely with ABC No Rio, Colab TV and the MWF Video Club and his audio art have been published on Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine three times. He is a recipient of a NY Foundation for the Arts Fellowship grant (1987) in the field of emerging artforms.

Robin Winters is an American conceptual artist and teacher based in New York. Winters is known for creating solo exhibitions containing an interactive durational performance component to his installations, sometimes lasting up to two months. As an early practitioner of Relational Aesthetics Winters has incorporated such devices as blind dates, double dates, dinners, fortune telling, and free consultation in his performances. Throughout his career he has engaged in a wide variety of media, such as performance art, film, video, writing prose and poetry, photography, installation art, printmaking, drawing, painting, ceramic sculpture, bronze sculpture, and glassblowing. Recurring imagery in his work includes faces, boats, cars, bottles, hats, and the fool.

The Real Estate Show Artistic exhibition in New York City

The Real Estate Show was a squatted exhibition by New York artists' group Colab, on the subject of landlord speculation in real estate held on New Year's Day in a vacant city-owned building at 123 Delancey Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City.

<i>The Times Square Show</i>

The Times Square Show was an influential collaborative, self-curated, and self-generated art exhibition held by New York artists' group Colab in Times Square in a shuttered massage parlor at 201 W. 41st and 7th Avenue during the entire month of June in 1980. The Times Square Show was largely inspired by the more radical Colab show The Real Estate Show, but unlike it, was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in what was then a Times Square full of porno theaters, peep shows, and red light establishments. In addition to experimental painting and sculpture, the exhibition incorporated music, fashion, and an ambitious program of performance and video. For many artists the exhibition served as a forum for the exchange of ideas, a testing-ground for social-directed figurative work in progress, and a catalyst for exploring new political-artistic directions.


  1. Skov, Marie Arleth (2018-11-15). "The Art of the Enfants Terribles: Infantilism and Dilettantism in Punk Art". RIHA Journal.
  2. 1 2 Matt, Gerald (2008). No One Is Innocent: Punk: Art-Style-Revolt. Nürnberg. p. 7. ISBN   9783852470665.
  3. 1 2 Marcus, Greil (2009). Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN   9780674034808 . Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  4. McWhirter, Cameron. "Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century". Harvard Review Online. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  5. "In a Post-World: Post-Punk Art Now". The Invisible Dog Art Center. Retrieved 2022-03-12.
  6. Masters, Marc (2007). No Wave. London: Black Dog Publishing. ISBN   978-1-906155-02-5
  7. Goldstein, Richard, The First Radical Art Show of the '80s, Village Voice 16, June 1980, pp. 31-32
  8. Levin, Kim, The Times Square Show, Arts September 1980, pp. 87-90
  9. Deitch, Jeffrey, Report from Times Square, Art in America September 1980, pp. 58-63
  10. Sedgwick, Susana, Times Square Show, East Village Eye Summer 1980, p. 21
  11. Rosen, M. (25 September 2019). "The explosive rise–and inevitable fall of the East Village art scene". Document Journal.
  12. Lippard, Lucy, Sex and Death and Shock and Schlock: A Long Review of The Times Square Show, by Anne Ominous in Post-modern Perspectives: Issues in Contemporary Art Ed. Howard Risatti. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990, pp. 77-86
  13. Beauchesne, Claudia Eve (2016). Post-Punk Art Now (PDF). PESOT - Organisme de création. p. 11. ISBN   978-2-9816126-0-1.

Further reading