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As part of the Year in Art Effort, every week Washington Project for The Arts and BYT comes together to give you a tidbit of the (some may say surprisingly?) colorful DC Art History. Be ready to be a cocktail party conversation star:

The idea of punk shows make people think of plaid, unwashed teenagers and twenty-somethings jumping around to Nirvana and homeless kids wandering the streets of Seattle. But a punk art show? What? Doesn’t really ring any bells, but the first one was actually held here in D.C., in 1978.


Images courtesy of 98bowery.com

The “Punk Art” show was put together collaboratively with Marc H. Miller, Bettie Ringma, Alice Denney, the director of the Washington Project for the Arts in Washington DC, and various artists from CBGB.

What made this show punk? Punk was more than just music it was a way of looking at art differently.

Los Angeles artist Mark Vallen has said:

“Punk had a unique and complex aesthetic. It was steeped in shock value and revered what was considered ugly. The whole look of punk was designed to disturb and disrupt the happy complacency of the wider society. Outside of punk’s torn and safety pinned anti-fashion statements, this impulse to outrage was never more apparent than on punk album covers.”


Alice Denney, Director of Washington Project for the Arts/Images courtesy of 98bowery.com

The exhibition featured: John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil of Punk (magazine), a pioneering fanzine that combined music coverage with cartoons and photo-narratives, Alan Vega (aka Alan Suicide) whose electronic junk sculpture predated his role in the music group Suicide, photographers Marcia Resnick and Jimmy De Sana, tattoo artist Ruth Marten, filmmaker Amos Poe, and artists like Tom Otterness and Beth and Scott B associated with X Magazine


Ruth Marten tattooing at the exhibit opening/Images courtesy of 98bowery.com

This was the first time that their art work had been pulled together to define “punk”. The exhibit then going turned into a catalog featuring many different artists that were making an impact on art.

There were essays done by Jerry Silk. Interviews of Andy Warhol and Victor Hugo. Photographs by Roberta Bayley, who had very close connections with musicians and the crowds that frequented CBGB. Art work and illustrations by John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil. Filmmakers like Amos Poe who captured performances of musicians that would help shape music from then onward. The catalog held many, many more artists that helped create the punk art revolution: check it out here.

Previously on Art History in DC:

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