Punk visual art  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Punk visual art is artwork which often graces punk rock album covers, flyers for punk shows, and punk zines. It is characterised by deliberate violation, such as the use of letters cut out from newspapers and magazines, a device previously associated with kidnap and ransom notes, so the sender's handwriting was not revealed. Much of the earlier artwork was in black and white, because it was distributed in punk zines reproduced at copy shops, but when colour was used in more expensive productions it was often characterised by being high key, such as the use of fluorescent pink and yellow contrasted with black on the cover of the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks album designed by Jamie Reid.

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.

Punk visual art can include anything from crudely scribbled letters to shockingly jarring figures drawn with sharp points everywhere. Often images and figures are cut and pasted from magazines to create a scene and the colors are often two tone and deeply contrasting. The main aesthetic of punk art seems to be to either shock, create a sense of empathy or revulsion, make a grander point with an acidic or sarcastic wit, poke fun at politics, political factions, or social factions.

In addition to record cover and concert poster design, “Punk Art” also extended into art galleries and exhibition spaces. In New York in the mid-1970s there was much overlap between the music and art scenes. Many of the visual artists who were regulars at CBGB and related music venues participated in a large Punk Art Exhibition held in Washington DC in 1978. Among those featured were John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil of Punk, 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. (2) A related, one night Punk Art show at the School of Visual Arts in NYC (1978) featuring films, performances and slide shows also included Robert Mapplethorpe and Diego Cortez. Other early “Punk” exhibits included the "Times Square Show" (1980) and "New York New Wave" at PS 1 (1981) . Punk Art would find an ongoing home on the Lower East Side with the establishment of ABC No Rio Gallery in 1980; and a Punk aesthetic was a dominant strand in the art galleries of the East Village (from 1982 -86) where art was also inspired by Rap and Hip Hop, trends roughly contemporaneous with Punk.(3)

See also

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