A remarkable temporary exhibition PUNK GRAPHICS Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die has arrived at ADAM Brussels Design Museum.
More than forty years after punk exploded onto the music scenes of New York and London, its impact on the larger culture is still being felt. Born in a period of economic malaise, punk was a reaction, in part, to an increasingly formulaic rock music industry. Punk’s energy coalesced into a powerful subcultural phenomenon that transcended music to affect other fields, such as visual art, fashion, and graphic design.
This exhibition explores the unique visual language of punk as it evolved in the United States and the United Kingdom through hundreds of its most memorable graphics—flyers, posters, albums, promotions, and zines. Drawn predominantly from the extensive collection of Andrew Krivine, PUNK GRAPHICS reveals punk as a range of diverse approaches and eclectic styles that resists its reduction to just a handful of stereotypes. The Belgian appendix shows how these approaches and styles also inspired continental punk design.
Arranged not by artist but rather by themes, the exhibition crisscrosses punk history to explore various visual strategies and design techniques, such as the role of appropriated, or borrowed, images; the use of collage and montage; and the do-it-yourself methods of flyers and zines. It also examines the influence of comics and horror genres as well as modern art on the creation of punk graphics. Many designs embraced irreverence through humor, satire, and parody, while reflecting the energy and spontaneity of the music through an equally spirited and experimental graphic design. Spanning a decade of punk and post-punk genres, the exhibition moves from the sobriety of a stripped-down minimalism to the expansive color palettes and expressive forms of new wave.
The design of punk graphics ran concurrent to postmodern art practices of the times by raiding popular culture, scavenging history, subverting messages, and transgressing aesthetic rules. Punk fed the alternative music scene that would emerge in the 1990s, as well as today’s do-it-yourself and “pro-am” cultures that blur and erase the lines between professionals and amateurs. Punk’s transgressive spirit emboldened people from all walks of life to reimagine themselves as creative agents and active participants in a culture driven by music, art, and design.
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