Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986
April 9, 2019 - August 18, 2019
The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) will present Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976–1986, an exhibition that explores the punk and post-punk movements through the lens of graphic design. The exhibition, on view from April 9 through August 18, 2019, will feature more than four hundred of punk's most memorable graphics, including flyers, posters, album covers, promotions, zines, and other ephemera.
"Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die charts punk's explosive impact on design and examines its complex relationship with art, history, and culture," said Chris Scoates, MAD's Nanette L. Laitman Director. "Punk questioned everything, and it's that spirit of inquiry that is driving MAD forward today, presenting and debating innovative works and ideas with lots of energy, color, and noise."
Originating at Bloomfield Hills, Michigan's Cranbrook Art Museum, the exhibition has been adapted for its run at MAD to include selections that showcase the visual output of New York City's punk scene: flyers from the famed East Village punk venue CBGB; concert posters and memorabilia from Blondie, the Ramones, and other artists; early issues of Punk magazine; and more.
"Since its rebellious inception in the 1970s, punk has always exhibited very visual forms of expression," said Andrew Blauvelt, Director of Cranbrook Art Museum and Curator-at-Large for Design at MAD. "From the dress and hairstyles of its devotees and the onstage theatrics of its musicians to the design of its numerous forms of printed matter, punk's energy coalesced into a powerful subcultural phenomenon that transcended music to affect other fields such as visual art, fashion, and graphic design."
Arranged thematically, Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die examines a variety of visual design strategies, including parody and pastiche, and techniques such as appropriation and collage. Further, it illuminates the influence of genres such as science fiction, horror, and comics on punk and post-punk graphics. The works on view move from the sobriety of a stripped-down, black-and-white minimalism to the expansive color palettes and expressive forms of New-Wave graphics.
Legendary graphic designers Malcolm Garrett and Peter Saville, both of whom have work represented in the exhibition, collaborated with MAD to create original promotional materials, including a subway poster campaign, a three-story banner for the Museum's facade, and merchandise for The Store at MAD. Garrett's "Too Fast to Live" graphic—featuring bold black type on a metallic silver ground with a square pop of fluorescent orange—recalls his cover art for the Buzzcocks' 1989 compilation album Product; while Saville's "Too Young to Die" borrows its typographic treatment and high-contrast black-and-white colorway from his 1980 design for Joy Division's Closer album cover.
A MAD member-only celebration on April 15, featuring John Rotten Lydon of the Sex Pistols, will kick off a full slate of public programs with several of punk's iconic makers and agitators. Hosted by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, co-authors of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, events will include an evening on punk photography with David Godless, Bob Gruen, Marcia Resnick, and Paul Zone; a night of music with DJ Phast Phreddie; a conversation with Sire Records co-founder Seymour Stein, plus programs focused on punk fashion, band history, and more.
In addition, from April 25 through July 11, MAD will present a global punk cinema series of films from Mexico, Japan, Cameroon, and other countries underscoring the variety of contexts in which punk music has galvanized youth movements for rebellion and social change.
During Museum hours, the documentary, Please Kill Me: Voices from the Archive, will play continuously in the Theater. The documentary, narrated by McNeil and McCain and compiled by filmmaker/artist Brendan Toller, includes interviews from Iggy Pop, Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, Debbie Harry, Jim Carroll, Billy Name, and others, combined with never-before-seen photographs and ephemera from Fred W. McDarrah, Adam Ritchie, Danny Fields, Bob Gruen, James Marshall, Godless, Leni Sinclair, Mike Barich, Natalie Schlossman, Zone, and Tom Hearn.
Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976–1986 is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and curated by Andrew Blauvelt, Director, with the assistance of Steffi Duarte and Andrew Krivine.
Unless otherwise noted, all objects in this exhibition are courtesy of Andrew Krivine. The Museum of Arts and Design is extremely grateful for his support of this exhibition.
The exhibition is sponsored in part by Dr. Martens with the support of Marian and Russell Burke, The Paulsen Family Foundation, and Flora Major for the Kutya Major Foundation.
The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) champions contemporary makers across creative fields and presents the work of artists, designers, and artisans who apply the highest level of ingenuity and skill. Since the Museum's founding in 1956 by philanthropist and visionary Aileen Osborn Webb, MAD has celebrated all facets of making and the creative processes by which materials are transformed, from traditional techniques to cutting-edge technologies. Today, the Museum's curatorial program builds upon a rich history of exhibitions that emphasize a cross-disciplinary approach to art and design, and reveals the workmanship behind the objects and environments that shape our everyday lives. MAD provides an international platform for practitioners who are influencing the direction of cultural production and driving twenty-first-century innovation, and fosters a participatory setting for visitors to have direct encounters with skilled making and compelling works of art and design.
For more information, visit madmuseum.org.