First you set out to smash all institutions, but then you find the institutions have enshrined you. Isn’t that always the way? It certainly seems to have turned out that way for punk rock, in any case, which vowed in the seventies to tear it all up and start over again. Now, in the 2010s, we find tribute paid to not just the music but the aesthetics, lifestyles, and personalities of the punk movement by two separate, and separately well-respected, institutions. We recently featured the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Punk: Chaos to Couture. Today, you can start watching The Art of Punk, a series of documentaries from MOCAtv, the video channel of Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art. Its trailer, which appears at the top of the post, emphasizes its focus on, literally, the visual art of punk: its posters, its album art, its T-shirts, and even — un-punk as this may sound — its logos.
The series opens with the episode just above on Black Flag and Raymond Pettibon, designer of the band’s well-known four-bar icon. It catches up with not just him, but founding singer Keith Morris and bassist Chuck Dukowski, as well as Flea from the Red Hot Chili peppers, who grew up a fan of the greater Los Angeles punk scene from which Black Flag emerged. The episode concludes, needless to say, with Henry Rollins, who, though not an original member of the band and now primarily a spoken word performer, has come to embody their punk ethos in his own highly distinctive way. In the latest episode, just out today, The Art of Punk series takes you inside the world of Crass, the English punk band formed in 1977.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.