The Art of Punk 

YouTube series chronicles how logos and fliers influenced the punk rock scene

Collage artist Winston Smith discusses his work with the Dead Kennedys for MOCATV's The Art of Punk series.

Bo Bushnell

Collage artist Winston Smith discusses his work with the Dead Kennedys for MOCATV's The Art of Punk series.

Like so many of Boise's children of the '90s, filmmaker Bo Bushnell grew up drenched in the blood, sweat and punk rock that blasted from the now-defunct Crazy Horse. The venue did more than just provide an outlet for his burgeoning boyhood bohemian tendencies, it gave him a field of expertise that helped in his latest film project, The Art of Punk. The multi-part documentary series was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and examines the logos of the punk acts he grew up getting pummeled to. It's currently featured on the MOCAtv channel on YouTube.

"Last year, Google and YouTube launched 100 channels," said Bushnell in a phone interview from his now-home of Los Angeles. "They funded companies to take TV to the Internet. MTV has their own. Vice has their own. The MOCA Museum, the museum in Los Angeles, got one and they were looking for some kind of radical programming."

MOCA initially approached Bushnell's partner, Bryan Ray Turcotte, who collected more than 100,000 punk fliers and compiled them in his book, Fucked Up + Photocopied.

"Back in the early '80s, the only real guide to what was going on was fliers. ... There was no Internet, no telephone hot line and no Bay Area Music Mag coverage of punk shows at all--fliers were the way we found out what was happening," Turcotte wrote in an article on Vice.com.

But more than just an information stream, those fliers displayed some of the most radical contemporary art of the times; art that expanded the scope of the music into a larger philosophy and subculture.

It may seem like a bit of a stretch for a classy joint like MOCA to be interested in the photocopied scribblings of the unwashed kids you can't seem to get off your couch.

Even Turcotte said that punk fliers shouldn't be behind glass and that his are prominently displayed in a giant pile on his desk.

But as Bushnell was quick to point out, punk is hardly underground anymore.

"The Met Gala was dedicated to punk this year," Bushnell said, referencing one of the swankiest black tie and butt-flap shindigs on the New York culturati calendar.

But that doesn't mean Bushnell doesn't see the irony.

"[Punk] was founded on the premise of being anti-art, on the principle of mocking art, and it became art," said Bushnell. "Especially Raymond Pettibon. The things he put on his posters were to mock people, to freak people out, and now they sell for $900K."

Pettibon, the artist who designed Black Flag's logo and recently showed an exhibition of his posters at Boise State's Visual Arts Center, is the subject of the first episode of The Art of Punk.

Bushnell and Turcotte spent more than a year securing and executing interviews with musicians like Greg Ginn, Henry Rollins and Flea.

"I guess punk rock is hard to penetrate," Bushnell said. "So we really had to wait for the right opportunities to come up."

But the series is worth the time it took.

The resulting webisodes are around 20 minutes each, chronicling the thoughts and feelings of members of bands like Black Flag when they see their logos on fliers and tattooed on the bodies of their fans.

"Most people don't really care about their music, it was more about what they stood for, about their logo," said Bushnell of the iconic four-black-bars logo Pettibon designed for Black Flag. "People around the world wear the Black Flag logo and you have to wonder if they know what it represents."

Bushnell's series aims to give them the inside line, in case they don't. The episodes for Black Flag, Crass and Dead Kennedys are all live on MOCAtv.

"What I find fascinating about [punk rock] is that it's underground youth culture that is basically fighting the system, what is going on in politics or the economy, and they wanted to stand up and say something about it," Bushnell said. "And it really freaked people out. And no matter what people said, they kept pushing it."

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