If the purpose of art is to elicit a response then surely few art forms generate more, usually negative, reaction then Punk. Covering the visual arts aspect of Punk art from 1974 to 1984, much of the work showcased in this collection reflects the turbulence of the time. The world was reeling from the effects of the 1973 oil crisis that sent many countries into a recession, Reagonomics created severe cuts in public spending, virtually hamstringing many social programs, AIDS and the ugly consequences of sex were seen as a manifestation of God’s righteous anger, setting the scene for morality legislation that continues even now. In this atmosphere of upheaval and unrest sprang artists like Hannah Wilke, Paul McCarthy and Keith Haring.
Seven chapters explore different aspects of Punk, each with an introduction that lends perspective to the pieces shown. The full color or black and white plates are beautifully reproduced although much of the work is frankly disturbing. Whether it’s the three pieces of Genesis P-Orridge that incorporates used tampons into sculptural wall art or the portraits of Robert Mapplethorpe, this work demands a response. As a result, many of these pieces will make readers uncomfortable and this material is unsuitable for younger readers. Don’t be lulled into brushing Punk art aside, the anger, alienation and isolation portrayed make a sharp statement on the times that continue to resonate today.