HARD ART DC 1979, Interview Series: Part 1 with Jayme McLellan
I’m so very excited to present our PLP readers with this series of interviews for the HARD ART DC 1979 exhibition opening this Saturday, November 5th at Civilian Art Projects. This collection of photographs is a must-see for all music lovers; it is an opportunity to catch a rare photographic glimpse of DC’s rich punk music history up close and very personal.
HARD ART DC 1979 @ Civilian Art Projects
1019 7th St NW
November 5 - December 31, 2011
Opening Reception: Saturday, November 5, 7-9pm
HARD ART DC 1979 is a traveling exhibition and forthcoming book* of photographs by Lucian Perkins with writing by Alec MacKaye and a contribution by Henry Rollins. The exhibition is curated and edited by photographer and photo editor Lely Constantinople and Jayme McLellan, director of Civilian Art Projects, Washington, DC, with photographs being shown as a group for the first time.
* Many thanks to Nick Pimentel, designer of the book, for all of his hard work and energy on the project.
HARD ART DC 1979, Interview Series: Part 1 with Jayme McLellan
Jayme McLellan, co-curator of HARD ART DC 1979 and director of Civilian Art Projects, talks to us first about her hopes for the show and the process of making it happen.
Interview with Jayme McLellan:
1. What was your experience like working on the HARD ART DC 1979 exhibition?
We started working on this project over four years ago. The "we" is Lely Constantinople, who is the photo editor for the book and co-curator on the exhibition with me; Lucian Perkins, the gifted and inspiring photographer who shot the work while he was then a 26 year-old summer intern at the Washington Post (he would go on to work at the Post for 27 years winning two Pulitzer prizes, National Photo award, and so much more); Alec MacKaye, a musician, artist, writer, Lely's husband, and all around awesome guy who was in attendance at most of the shows Lucian photographed; Nick Pimentel - who graciously and patiently has designed the book, brochure, posters; and we should thank Lely and Alec's close friend Henry Rollins who contributed some writing. In addition to the above crew, there's a lot of people to thank. Bridget Lambert at Furthermore did a stellar job printing the large scale work and Noelle Tan who printed the silver-gelatin photographs. Sarah Tanguy, Paul Roth, Ian MacKaye and Amanda Maddox helped with advice and feedback. And then there's the 200+ Kickstarter backers who made this project possible. We met our goal in 24 hours! It was a real community effort to get to this place.
In terms of the process, there have been times of intense work, like now in getting ready for the exhibition, and then times of more relaxed, creative idea sharing. We have met off and on almost every month since 2007. We've come to know each other better as friends and colleagues, and I've become more steeped in the important first shows in the now well known history of DC punk music. The stories that I've heard are inspiring and witty and make me proud to live in DC. Music has always been a big part of my life but I grew up in the Maryland country - the music available to me was rock and metal. But it saved me the way punk transformed so many. There's a powerful energy found in the force of music played with real love and intensity. It can change the world. I'm happy to be a part of documenting this early time in DC music history. I can't wait for the book to come out! We are finishing the final draft now.
2. How do you think Washingtonians, as well as audiences in the other tour cities, will react to this exhibition, the photographs and the stories behind them?
HARD ART's success is because of a community of people who have come together to support this project. People who love the music, people who love Lucian's photography, people who support Civilian, people who love Lely and Alec. The project is already loved, now that it is printed and soon open to the public, it will be embraced. I've come to understand through this project how deep the currents run for bands like Bad Brains, Teen Idles, Untouchables, etc. People all over the world LOVE this music. It deeply means something. People have shown me their Void tattoos, their stars and bars, shared stories from these early shows. It was a trans-formative time! And I hope that the DC we know now will see that this time happened because a bunch of determined people got together and rocked it out in low budget, scrappy art galleries. You don't have to wear designer labels and have tidy hair cuts to be relevant in art and music- do what's in your gut. Make something different! Be different. I think DC and cities across the country, and maybe the world, will resonate with the energy of the photos and the authenticity of the words. That's my hope anyway. And I hope people start bands, maybe make some artwork, and step outside of their comfort zones.
3. Do you know which photo Alec MacKaye enjoyed seeing the most? Do you have a favorite photograph that spoke to you?
Alec answered this directly. I love the HR "Vile" photograph. It's a great shot. And I love the shots of Charlie Trenchmouth and Alec. Charlie is so tall and pale, and Alec is small and fucking into it! He's pushing and shoving and dancing. In the sequence the artwork on the walls goes from organized and straight, to crooked and decorated with beer cans. Great energy there! There's so many photos I love for so many different reasons. I could spend days telling you. But the more interesting part for me is what others think of them.
4. What’s one thing about HARD ART DC 1979 that has inspired or intrigued you?
I'm inspired by the fortuitousness of Lucian's finding and shooting those shows, of Lely's "discovery" of the negatives in Lucian's photo collection, the enlightening stories of Alec in the writing in the book, the steadfastness with which we held onto the project and made it happen despite the pressures of every day and the lack of money. Before Kickstarter, we didn't have a dime. And I'm inspired by those early shows, where people are just letting loose, and young musicians are just sort of learning their chops - and playing in Anacostia without any sort of professional team?! I believe the story is that the Clash were having rock shows in England so HR wanted to organize something here for communities who might never see this music. The fact that these photos resonate now, that we still care and are thinking about them, I'm inspired by the whole thing.
5. Tell us one thing about this exhibition that not many people know about. A secret perhaps?
1979 was a time of very little media. In most cases, Lucian was the only one with a camera at those shows. There's a rumor one other person had a camera. I think that's really interesting. There's also a rumor of some video. Do you have video? Let me know.
Thanks so much for the insider’s scoop, Jayme! I’m sure PLP readers will give us the heads up if they spy any of that rare video footage!
More info about HARD ART DC 1979:
In 1979, a soon to erupt punk scene took hold in Washington, DC with the Bad Brains, Trenchmouth, Teen Idles, the Untouchables, and the Slickee Boys, among others, at the forefront. Lucian Perkins, later a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist for the Washington Post, was then a 26-year-old intern who photographed several shows over a pivotal five-month period. Alec MacKaye, then 14, was at most of the shows and appears in Perkins' photographs.
Years later, in 1995, Lely Constantinople was hired by Perkins to manage his extensive photographic collection spanning a twenty-five year career with the Post. While looking through negatives in his basement, she found the punk images and recognized MacKaye, her then boyfriend (now husband). She asked to make contact sheets to show him, thinking he might recognize himself and others, and was surprised by how excited MacKaye was to see the images. "Those pictures were the holy grail! Not that many people brought cameras to shows then so I always wondered who he was and what happened to the pictures he took. He was at some of the best shows."
MacKaye's text offers an intimate exploration of the moment from two perspectives: that of a fourteen-year-old experiencing music on his own terms for the first time, and a look again at a movement that fueled an underground generation musically and philosophically. His examination is not a nostalgic review of glory days gone, as much as a present conversation about the continuation of a way of thinking that still endures.
HARD ART DC 1979 is an intimate snapshot of "the time before the time" that punk rock found firm footing in the U.S. These images capture the cathartic, infectious energy present in any group of people who seek to change their communities through music and art.
This exhibition is scheduled to tour to the Good Children Gallery in New Orleans, LA and Austin, TX for the SXSW Music Festival. More tour dates to come.
For even more information visit: www.civilianartprojects.com
Short URL: http://bit.ly/rS6nJj