Angry 80s Punk Goes Downright Mainstream at the Stately Met
Like many good things, it began in the 60s. Kidz with a love of music, a lack of training but a surfeit of garage space ignored any lack of musical talent and simply forged ahead in a loud-louder-loudest sandstorm of blissful ignorance. And lo & behold, punk started to spread in its cacaphonious glory, trampling right over the traditional music-biz playbook...which no one heard anyway 'cuz the din was probably too deafening.
When the Stooges & the MC5 played in places like Detroit, these noisefests often turned violent. Under Andy Warhol's influence, The Velvet Undergound began expanding how music was defined. When the glam contingent (David Bowie; the New York Dolls) split and went "hair metal", the rest of the 70s punk scene solidified in NYC's Bowery at CBGB where The Ramones, Blondie & The Talking Heads appeared regularly. Across the Pond, Malcolm McClaren launched the Sex Pistols and a pack of their fans from the Bromley nabe, the so-called Bromley Contingent, went on to form The Clash, Siouxsie & the Banshees, X-Ray Spex and the Billy Idol-fronted Generation X. (source)
The history of the largest art museum in the US - & one of the three largest in the world - couldn't be more different. Founded in 1870 by society types who attended fundraisers, their arm candy dripping in arm candy & draped in couture, they wanted to bring art to "the people" & founded this Fifth Ave institution. Its Costume Institute hosts elegant shows organized around famous designers such as Cristóbal Balenciaga, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Gianni Versace. Also, displays of the contents of the closets of the Wealthy & Wealthier have attracted well-mannered crowds to view threads once owned & worn by Diana Vreeland, Mona von Bismarck, Babe Paley, Jayne Wrightsman, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Nan Kempner and Iris Apfel. Vogue EIC, Anna Wintour, now co-chairs an annual Benefit Gala that is a tad spendy - as in $6,500 for one of the 700 available tickets spendy.
So it's with eyebrow raised & tongue sorta firmly in cheek that I nonetheless welcome the new Met show, PUNK: Chaos to Couture. (May 9 - August 14, 2103) What couture and punk do share, interestingly, is a love of all things individualized and customized. Punk is arguably the more creative of the two, simply because in its authentic form it was done purely for expression, removing the restraining impact that branding & issues of money-making always exert on the final product of anything creative (which is why I usually enjoy looking at art more than I do graphic design). “Since its origins, punk has had an incendiary influence on fashion,” explains Andrew Bolton, Curator in The Costume Institute. “Although punk’s democracy stands in opposition to fashion’s autocracy, designers continue to appropriate punk’s aesthetic vocabulary to capture its youthful rebelliousness and aggressive forcefulness.”
Located in the Met's second-floor Cantor galleries, the exhibition will feature approximately 100 designs for men and women. Original punk garments from the mid-1970s will be juxtaposed with recent, directional fashion to illustrate how haute couture and ready-to-wear have borrowed punk’s visual symbols, with paillettes being replaced with safety pins, feathers with razor blades, and bugle beads with studs. Focusing on the relationship between the punk concept of 'do-it-yourself' and the couture concept of 'made-to-measure,' the exhibition will be organized around the materials, techniques, and embellishments associated with the anti-establishment style. Presented as an immersive multimedia, multisensory experience, the clothes will be animated with period music videos and soundscaping audio techniques.
#1 CBGB in New York City - represented by Blondie, Richard Hell, The Ramones, and Patti Smith.
#2 Malcolm McClaren& Vivienne Westwood and their Seditionaries boutique at 430 King’s Road in London.
#3 Clothes for Heroes - the visual language of punk & how it merged social realism with artistic expression.
#4 Do-it-yourself studs, spikes, chains, zippers, padlocks, safety pins, and razor blades. (Johnny Rotten)
#5 D.I.Y. Bricolage - punk’s ethos of customization & freegan-like love of recycling materials from trash and consumer culture. (Wayne County; D.I.Y. Graffiti and Agitprop)
#6 Provocation & Confrontation - The Clash; and D.I.Y. Destroy.
#7 Rip-it-to-shreds - torn, shredded & deconstructed garments.
from left: Rodarte, Comme des Garcons, Zandra Rhodes