Arts and Culture

Punk invades MCA this Friday: Steven Wolf on West Coast punk

The West Coast punks are pogoing into town this spring at MCA Denver, Gildar Gallery, the Colorado Photographic Arts Center and other locations, for a series of shows falling under the aegis of Search & Destroy. So-named for the San Francisco 'zine or the '70s), the ring of satellite shows will come to rest Friday night at MCA, where a reception with live music opens to the public at 8 p.m. (music by Modern Witch at 10:30 p.m.).

The main exhibit at MCA, co-curated by Adam Lerner and bay area gallerist Steven Wolf, centers around the milieu of influential artist and filmmaker Bruce Conner. We caught up with Wolf to ask a few questions about the show.

Westword: Why resurrect the West Coast punk ethos now? And what makes the era so compelling in 2012?

Steven Wolf: We decided to organize this show because of the way punk rock has suddenly become a source of energy and inspiration for young artists. They enter the art world from graduate school, with massive student loans and demands from commercial galleries for commodifiable objects, and they are drawn to the anti-career, anti-success, totally amateur character of punk rock.

They also see in punk rock an attractive, authentic desire for rebellion which isn't on the table as a real option today. They also see punk as a lab where kids figured out that they could simply make for themselves what they wanted, and not wait around till they became professionals, which makes sense today as kids have so many great tools to manufacture and distribution their own work.

How was it different from similar movements in London and New York?

It was probably the same in a lot of ways and different as you go up and down the coast. In Los Angeles, and later Orange County, the suburbs played a big roll in defining the form of alienation that punk rock congealed around. Also, there was a bigger latin component with bands like Los Zeros, Los Lobos and The Minutemen. In San Francisco, the intimate geography made it easier to connect the dots between the radical New Genres department at the San Francisco Art Institute, the Mabuhay Gardens in North Beach, where punk first flourished, and beat figures like Allen Ginsberg, who could still be found hanging out at the City Lights bookstore, also in North beach.

Punk was very performative, artistic. One can also speculate that the political activism that blew down a generation from the Berkeley free speech movement somehow made it more possible for Jello Biafra to run for mayor.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd

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