You Have Until The End of This Week To See ‘The Birth of Punk’ Exhibit

Posted on: July 26th, 2022 at 5:08 am by

Photo: Lori Greenberg

Many people felt that punk would never last. Record companies (remember those?) initially believed it would be commercially unsuccessful and too risky, despite the clubs being packed with fervent fans there to hear an audio onslaught of bands who didn’t care what the industry wanted.

The record companies were partially, but just partially, right. Punk music was nowhere near as successful as “stadium rock” or “easy listening” of the time. Its impact, though, has endured, and many of the punk-influenced bands of later generations have been way more successful than their predecessors.

Photo: Lori Greenberg

To teenagers who were sneaking into clubs in the 1970s (who…me? The statute of limitations has long passed, kids!), punk seemed to explode overnight. But as spontaneous as it may have seemed, these bands were inspired by earlier musicians who had plenty of edge. And more than enough attitude.

So, who – or what – influenced the punk bands?

This is what the current pop-up exhibit “The Birth of Punk,” aims to tell us. Sponsored by the Morrison Hotel and The Great Frog, the exhibit lays out a timeline of punk, starting in the mid-1960s and taking us along to the end of the 1970s, in the form of photographs, video, and installations.

Godlis’s photo of the Ramones. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

Walking into the exhibit, you’re greeted by a larger-than-life image of the Ramones, taken by the photographer Godlis, capturing them on stage in full “blow your hair back” mode. It seems like a really good place to start since the Ramones are considered by many to be the “Fathers of Punk” (not to be confused with the “Godfather of Punk,” who is maybe Joey Ramone, Iggy Pop, or Lou Reed, depending on who you want to argue with). The Ramones continue to have a profound influence on multiple generations of bands today.

The exhibit walks us through photos of the earlier musicians and bands who didn’t sound like everyone else, and who paved the way for an evolution (and maybe a revolution) called punk rock.

There are images of glam rock icons (David Bowie, The New York Dolls), experimental/art rock bands (The Velvet Underground), punk poets (Patti Smith), underground rockers (The Fugs), proto-punks (The MC5, Iggy and the Stooges), and garage rockers (Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets compilation album).

John Holmstrom drawing and lettering. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

Punk was quite a broad category in the 1970s, and the exhibit does an impressive job of showcasing album covers, posters, flyers, and photographs from a wide range of bands including The Dead Boys, Blondie, Talking Heads, Television, Suicide, The Dictators, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids. There’s also a video by Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong of GoNightclubbing, of an entire set of the Dead Boys, from 1977.

Punk has always had a very strong visual association, exemplified by the distressed clothing, graphics, posters, and album covers that have become synonymous with the time. The visual design of the exhibit is spot-on, capturing that feeling with torn paper pasted on black painted walls, resulting in an appropriately raw aesthetic.

Photo: Lori Greenberg

In one section of the gallery there are large sections of fabric hanging from the ceiling and printed with lyrics, transforming the words into floating pieces of almost beat-like punk poetry.

Drawings and hand lettered comments by cartoonist and writer John Holmstrom, were one of our favorite parts of the exhibit. Holmstrom was the founding editor of Punk Magazine, and along with his many other credits, he illustrated the covers of the Ramones albums Rocket to Russia and Road to Ruin. Created specifically for the show, some of his illustrations and lettering are on the pasted white paper while some are directly on the black walls. The characters depicted are often comically commenting and critiquing the punk rock world of the exhibit.

John Holmstrom drawing. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

The NYC-centric exhibit includes photographs by Glen Craig, Chalkie Davies, Godlis, Lynn Goldsmith, Bob Gruen, Ken Regan, Mick Rock, Ebert Roberts, Chris Stein, Allen Tannenbaum, Barrie Wentzell and Jerry de Wilde.

“The Birth of Punk” is at the pop-up gallery The Seaport (which is possibly the least punk rock location one can think of). All photos are for sale through the Morrison Hotel gallery. It closes the end of this week, on July 31.

Recent Stories

DOT to Pave Pock-Marked Pell Street; Sheds Removed

Pell Street is finally on deck for a resurfacing, forcing numerous Chinatown businesses to dismantle their street shed annexes. Those who operate outdoor dining sheds along Pell Street received notice this week from the Department of Transportation to dismantle structure ahead of scheduled street repaving. This small neighborhood street – which once terminated at Division – […]

Immersive ‘Squid Game’ Experience on the Lower East Side

Netflix smash, Squid Game, is coming to real life. On the Lower East Side. In the fall, international gaming company Immersive Gamebox will take space inside 81 Essex Street, the big-box building occupied by the International Center of Photography. Its primary experience will be a multiplayer game built around the Squid Game series. The immersive […]

Owners of Gertie Eye Market Street for ‘Jackie’ (Updated)

Huertas and Gertie meet for Jackie. That is the narrative for a new restaurant in Two Bridges that features the owners behind both aforementioned establishments. Indeed, Nathan Adler and Rachel Jackson (principals behind Brooklyn’s Gertie) are planning a new Italian-American restaurant at 42 Market Street. The fourteen table concept, dubbed Jackie, will feature “good food […]

Trash Talk: Taking Stock of the Constant Pileup on Rivington Street

The Lower East Side, whose residents are struggling amidst sanitation budget cuts, under-maintained restaurant sheds, and absent landlords and/or vacant leaseholders, suffer the scourge of refuse. One Rivington Street resident walked much of the length of the east-west stretch to find – and document – how trash buildup, stagnating pools of mystery sludge, dilapidated street shanties, and overall […]

Uncapped: Nobody Beats IZ THE WIZ

  IZ the WIZ: hands down one of the most illustrious and renowned graffiti writers in and outside of our fair city. May he continue to Rest in Peace. In this installation of Uncapped, guest contributor, Freddy Alva, is back with an excerpt from the new issue of his Black Book Series magazine: Pound for […]