HARD ART DC 1979, a touring exhibition and book, brings alive the birth of the Washington, DC punk scene and its lasting impact on music and culture worldwide. Featuring photographs by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lucian Perkins, Hard Art DC 1979 offers a singular, close-up view of a thriving, underground scene in obscure art co-ops and performance spaces of the nation’s capital in stark contrast to the concurrent stirrings of the Reagan presidency. His photographs reveal the energy and passion of a small rebellious movement inspired by then unknown bands such as the Bad Brains and the Teen Idles. From these musicians a music and do-it-yourself (DIY) philosophy evolved that went on to influence future bands and global audiences giving HARD ART DC 1979 a broad, intergenerational appeal. Show fliers from legendary, long-closed venues and other ephemera documenting the scene contextualize Perkins’ arresting silver-gelatin and other large-scale black and white photographs. The DIY sensibility, so pervasive in popular culture today, is widely recognized as being born out of the punk and underground music scenes that started in places similar to the ones documented in HARD ART.
The book and exhibition present narrative writing from Alec MacKaye, an influential singer and musician cum writer whose front man energy in bands such as the Untouchables, Ignition, Faith and The Warmers inspired artists and bands such as Kurt Cobain, Sonic Youth and Pearl Jam. An essay by former Black Flag singer Henry Rollins about The Teen Idles, a band featuring Alec’s brother Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi, Dischord Records and The Evens), describes the power of these early shows and the dedication of young people to their craft and their desire to make something happen despite the obstacles. HARD ART DC 1979 (Akashic Books) was published in June 2013. The exhibition is touring the U.S., Europe and Asia.