Research Question: Pooja Desai

Picture This: Punk Visual Style in the Village, Then and Now

Given that Greenwich Village has historically been a site for artists who fall outside the confines of mainstream culture, it is not surprising that the birth of the American punk rock scene took place there. The emergence of the music scene itself has been covered extensively, including here on the Greenwich Village Digital Archive, but what has been neglected is the art and visual style that reflected the ideology of the music and helped define punk as a subculture. The unrefined, confrontational style of the music found visual expression in such mediums as concert flyers, the handwritten pages of the fanzine Punk, and the graffiti on the walls of iconic venue and so-called "birthplace of NYC's … punk music" CBGB.1

The exhibit will juxtapose images demonstrating this unique style with my own research into the the beliefs and ideology associated with punk rock, the crossover between Greenwich Village's existing art scene and the punk scene, and the development of a punk "style" of art and fashion. Chronologically, I will focus on the birth of the original scene in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, but I hope to also include more modern items to illustrate the development of punk style since those early years. In arranging the exhibit this way, I plan to create a narrative around the transformation of the music scene into a subculture and the creation of a punk rock aesthetic which can be seen in various forms of media that go far beyond the music itself.

Secondary sources will include articles, scholarly and otherwise, that examine general trends in punk visual art and fashion both in the past and in more recent years. In this early stage of research the paper "We Accept You, One of Us?": Punk Rock, Community, and Individualism in an Uncertain Era, 1974-1985 by Mary Montgomery Wolf has been helpful in pointing towards general trends in the development of the scene and offering a wealth of information on punk ideology which I hope to illustrate through the items in the exhibit.

My next steps toward the creation of this exhibit will be to search out more secondary sources, delve more deeply into my thus far cursory search for primary sources, and double-check copyright on some of the sketchier-looking (which, I now realize, perhaps comes with the territory) primary source items I have found so far. Once these steps are completed I will be able to strengthen the basic narrative I am working with so far and create a concrete argument about my topic.

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