Arts / Museums

Anarchy at SMU

Sex Pistols, The Clash, Talking Heads, and The Cramps — A Punk and New Wave Exhibition

BY // 03.27.24

To quote Henry Rollins, former lead singer of the seminal band Black Flag, “Questioning everything, and anything, to me, is punk rock.” Given that college campuses should be a hotbed of young minds questioning everything around them, we were excited to hear that the largest exhibition of punk and New Wave graphics, fashion, and ephemera from England and the U.S. ever presented in the Dallas/Fort Worth region is now open at Southern Methodist University (through May 10, 2024). “Torn Apart: Punk + New Wave Graphics, Fashion and Culture, 1976-1986,” curated by Michael Worthington of the CalArts graphic design faculty, showcases the print collections of scholar and collector Andrew Krivine and the fashion collection of Malcolm Garrett, a prominent graphic designer for bands of this era.

Your teen angst years will bubble to the surface as you gaze upon works of design for the iconic Johnny Rotten-led Sex Pistols, The Clash, Grace Jones, Devo, Talking Heads, Buzzcocks, and The Cramps. (The Cramps saw a renewed interest in their work — particularly the 1981 anthem “Goo Goo Muck” — when the titular character of Netflix’s Wednesday did her arms-akimbo yet sardonically deadpan dance to the song, and poseurs everywhere attempted their own renditions on TikTok.) The exhibition presents posters and other artifacts of this 20th-century movement that still has legions of diehard loyalists, as well as new converts. The punk and New Wave art forms not only shook up popular music but continue to have a profound impact on media, cinema, graphic design, and advertising.

dallas southern methodist university museum exhibit punk
Torn Apart: Punk + New Wave Graphics, Fashion & Culture: 1976-1986 at SMU’s Hamon Arts Library

And, for those who cling to pieces you scored in the 1980s at some New Wave emporium or from Vivienne Westwood’s recent collections, there’s much here to feed your fashionable soul. Clothing was an integral part — a non-uniform uniform — of the nonconformist movement, posing the question: What came first, punk fashion or punk music? Myriad international designers reference that era when mining inspiration for their collections today. Look no further than Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane. The garments of that era were literally torn apart and reimagined with safety pins and patches. On view are items from revolutionary boutiques such as BOY and Westwood’s SEX and Seditionaries on King’s Road in 1970s London.

Torn Apart: Punk + New Wave Graphics, Fashion and Culture, 1976-1986, through May 10, Hawn Gallery, Hamon Arts Library, SMU, 

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