Punk and New Wave Culture Lives at the Auraria Campus

Punk and New Wave Culture Lives at the Auraria Campus

Pop culture goes by changes decade after decade, but true pop revolutions orbit on a less frequent apogee. Perhaps the last great pop-cultural zenith came during the punk/new wave scene of the ’70s and early ’80s, and many who lived by it would agree that there hasn’t been anything to match its intensity in the last forty years.

The scene cross-fertilized in London and New York, spreading to San Francisco and L.A., leaving behind a trail of definite subcultures tied together by mutating threads of rebellion, anarchy and new sociopolitical pathways.

Sex Pistols, Anarchy In the UK, smaller variant cover, EMI Records, 1976.

Courtesy of the Andrew Krivine Collection

Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die Redux: Punk Graphic Design and Reversing Into the Future: New Wave Graphic Design, twin exhibitions now on view at CU Denver’s Emmanuel Gallery by December 21, tell the story of the punk/new wave era by curated selections of posters, gig posters, album covers, zines, more memorabilia and graphic art from a enormous trove gathered by New York-based collector Andrew Krivine.

The shows, curated Dr. Maria Buszek, associate professor of art history at CU Denver, with input from Krivine and a group of students, are also a must-see prelude to the December 9 Go Nightclubbing screening and talk with Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers, two pioneering videographers who went into clubs like CBGB’s, Danceteria and the Mudd Club and recorded performances by the likes of Richard Hell and the Voidoids, the Ramones, the Cramps, the Dead Boys and countless others.

The Cramps, orange & green Max’s Kansas City poster, poster, December, 1978.

Courtesy of the Andrew Krivine Collection

Krivine’s preserved artifacts offer a who’s who of major players and places in the downtown New York scene where Armstrong and Ivers lived and participated, in addition as those in New York’s fellow punk/new wave magnet cities. His own introduction to punk started in London, when he was nevertheless in his teens.

“My dad’s family was English, and my mom’s was American,” Krivine recalls. “In the ’70s, I’d go over every summer for a month in England with my aunts and uncles.” He grew close to his cousin John Krivine, an underground entrepreneur who established the punk boutique BOY in London with Stephane Raynor. “He was essentially like another brother,” Krivine says. “I’d go hang with him in the boutique, and we’d go to the punk clubs.”

Club 57, event calendar for January 1980, 57 St. Mark’s Place (blue paper stock).

Courtesy of the Andrew Krivine Collection

By 1977, Krivine had begun grabbing posters and ripping gig flyers off phone poles. But he didn’t really know the collection’s true value until the 2000s, when interest in memorabilia began to catch on at record expos. He started collecting again, growing the collection at a greater speed.

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“I started cold-calling galleries,” Krivine recalls. In 2011, his first show opened at the Steven Kashler Gallery in Chelsea. “MOMA acquired a number of pieces,” he adds. But his real goal wasn’t to have his trove stored in a repository and only sometimes pulled out for an exhibition. instead of selling pieces off, he wanted to use the trove educationally by exhibitions at universities, allowing new generations to appreciate what he calls “the last golden era of graphic design in the twentieth century.” Today, the fully catalogued collection has peaked at 7,000 pieces.

See these exhibitions at Emmanuel Gallery side-by-side and you’ll have an idea where Armstrong and Ivers will be taking you during their film screening. New York’s punk/new wave scene, they agree, was less fact-oriented and belligerent and sexist than London’s, and more of a community of creative people who lived cheaply, touched by the Manhattan avant-garde. Its formation depended a lot on the ineffective economy: Rents were low, especially when you had roommates.

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Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers rode the early video wave in New York City, circa 1976-1981.

Courtesy of the Go Nightclubbing Archive

“I first saw Patti Smith at Max’s Kansas City with Television, and everything started at that point,” Ivers says. “Punk was a DIY thing. I wasn’t a musician, but punk was the perfect way to get involved.”

Ivers and Armstrong worked at Manhattan Cable, and it was their gateway to the thriving art of video, long before the commercialized arrival of MTV. They learned the ropes of what was then an analog medium seen on public-access channels. “It was the beginning of the portable video idea,” Ivers explains. “We could go and shoot bands comparatively easily.”

Pop music of the era left them cold, but the two friends found relief from uninteresting music by going downtown to see live music in the clubs.

Ivers looks back at that time fondly: “I always knew this was an incredibly special time, a transient moment of greatness. I was so lucky. I was the luckiest person on earth. I got to see one unbelievable band after another, and they were all incredibly different.”
“It would be a small number of people in small club,” Armstrong remembers. “It was a lot like going to your ‘local.’ There were a lot of musicians, artists, designers, poets, strippers — we all had different skills.”

They had access to equipment, which strengthened their niche and allowed them to make better-than average video documentation of bands, with sound mixed separately for a better presentation. “We started the TV show Nightclubbing on Channel 10 cable. Back then, it was the only opportunity to get video exposure, or for bands to have a copy of a performance,” Armstrong continues. “We were the video dramatical change.”

Ivers chimes in: “We were on the bleeding edge.”
Their glory days as underground videographers lasted from about 1976 to 1981. And in New York in the ’70s, it was not seen as uncommon work for women. During that time, they shot performances by the Dead Boys, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, the Bush Tetras and the Bad Brains, to name a few.

“People always think of punk as being male-dominated, but in New York, the scene was non-sexist,” Ivers recalls. “It was hetero; it was truly very open. Everyone slept with everyone, and there was a lot of fluid sexuality going on.” Women were equal doers in the scene, she notes: “They managed bands, booked clubs. Most women were doing something. Nothing was gender-specific.”

Every club had its own flavor, but they have their favorites. “CBGB was like a redo of high school, where people got to reinvent themselves,” Ivers relates. “We were young, in our twenties, which really is just one step out of high school.”

“It was home away from home,” Armstrong says. “There were more than a few people with mental health issues, but there was a whole group therapy thing going on. It was part of what it was, a beautiful thing.”

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Generation X, (Amos Poe, Ivan Kral produced NY punk documentary), poster, c. 1978.

Courtesy of the Andrew Krivine Collection

“Hilly [Hilly Kristal, owner of CBGB] was like our dad,” Ivers adds. “He would let any band play, they just had to play original music. He was the first to help anyone with a problem.”

If CBGB was a comfort zone in the scene, the original Danceteria, where both women worked in its earlier days, was the outlaws’ lair. Armstrong and Ivers reached a high point in their career as punk videographers when they opened the Video Lounge inside the Danceteria.

“It opened at 10 and stayed open until 9 a.m., and everything was illegal,” Ivers recollects. “It had no liquor license, in addition they took out complete-page ads in the Village Voice. It was the last of those places.”

“They closed down those clubs after that,” Armstrong adds. “They were all licensed and legit after that.”

The Mudd Club in TriBeca, a haunt where artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol fraternized with bands and poets, was known for its theme nights — the Dead Rock Stars Rock ’n’ Roll Funeral Ball is just one example — and art experiments. And Max’s Kansas City? “I was never personally was a fan of Max’s,” Ivers notes.
Years later, the Go Nightclubbing Archive has been digitalized at New York University, and Armstrong and Ivers have reconnected with the work.

“They were on so many different formats that it was impossible for us to do it,” Armstrong says. “We were looking at stuff we hadn’t seen in forty years. We rediscovered the Cramps — Lux was so sexy back then.”

Adds Ivers: “We found a whole set by John Cale that I don’t remember shooting.”

She wistfully notes that this was a time that will never be back: “It was the last analog culture: You’d get a flier and paste it on a phone pole. Everything is digital now. So many artifacts are lost because of that. It was such an incredible time, when the art and music scenes crisscrossed and grew side by side.”

Andrew Krivine has two fine-art volumes documenting his collection:
Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die: Punk & Post Punk Graphics 1976-1986 and Reversing into the Future: New Wave Graphics 1977-1990, obtainable from Rizzoli. Thanks to a new academic interest in punk culture, you can now see Krivine’s collections at the Emmanuel Gallery, 1205 Tenth Street Plaza on the Auraria campus, by December 21. The gallery will be open until 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, December 9, for those interested in seeing the shows on their way to the Tivoli screenings.

Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers will tell stories and present revived performance videos at Go Nightclubbing from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 9, at the Tivoli Comcast Theater, 900 Auraria Parkway. The screening is free; learn more on Instagram.

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