The Neo-Biography of a Punk Rock Collection
The Center for Punk Arts is designed as a robust, free-to-the-public, historically engaged archive of all things related to the punk arts phenomena. It seeks to celebrate and preserve, promote discussion not just nostalgia, and make available as many works of punk art as possible give the resources at hand. Every day or two, the site will be updated to show a piece of punk art from the collection, juxtaposed with relevant information. It does not seek to profit from the work, nor does it seek to infringe upon the rights of the artists involved. It simply desires to share the work, broaden people’s appreciation for the diverse style, character, and substance of the art, and challenge people’s assumptions about the role such work plays in the history, narrative, and permutations of pop culture.
The archive was first gathered and activated round the year 2000 for an extensive show at Lawndale Arts Center in Houston, TX, which featured several hundred punk flyers (the Japanse section is featured above), photos by Texas punk chronicler Bill Daniels, and a continuously running Fugazi live video. Since then, the archive has continued to expand and develop and under the guidance of David Ensminger, college teacher, drummer, and editor for the former print zine turned web page Left of the Dial, who has been collecting such items since late 1984, when his brother, a student at the Art Institute of Chicago, brough home the zines Flipside, Maximum Rock’n'Roll, and Last Rites.
By the late 1980s, David was making flyers, helping set up shows for touring bands, playing in myriad bands, and publishing his own DIY fanzine, No Deposit No Return, named after a Henry Rollins spoken word piece. After finishing his grad program in New York City and teaching for a few years, David began publishing, with the help of local designers in Houston, TX, the magazine Left of the Dial, which was distributed worldwide and dedicated to the art of the interview. After buying copies of books like Fucked-Up and Photocopied, a coffee table overview of punk posters, he decided to dedicate himself to preserving, collecting, and showing punk posters en masse, though this time with critical context by producing a booklet (Visual Vitriol: The Secret History of Punk Rock) that was published in Left of the Dial and Artcore magazines and given away at shows. By being close-to-the-ground, David was able to reach out and build a massive collection (3,000 plus pieces of flyers, photography, album art, and more) through the ongoing and much-appreciated help, knowledge, and cooperation of dozens of people strongly-rooted in the scene.
Selections from the archive have been shown in Santa Fe (Plan B center for the arts), Portland, Salem, and Monmouth, OR. Internationally, it was shown at the 2002 Blue Pop Festival in Budapest, Hungary (see the b/w photo below), toured throughout Western Europe, and portions were even displayed recently at a Bangkok concert. In England and Wales, it travelled alongside the Texas Biscuit Bombs, featuring Randy “Biscuit” Turner of the Big Boys, reknown singer and critically touted self-taught punk artist, and Four Letter Word, featuring zine editor, punk poster maker, and singer Welly. In Europe, posters were glued to white boards and travelled alongside Retisonic, featuring reknown singer/guitarist and record designer Jason Farrell (Dischord Records, etc.).
Currently, David Ensminger is a student in the Folklore Program at the University of Oregon, in Eugene, where he hopes to manage and catalog the archive, help sponsor and curate future shows of the work, and author and edit a series of articles on like-minded art. In the meantime, the archive is looking for a physical home, replete with storage, gallery, and workshop space. If you would like to contribute to this ongoing project, please email leftofthedialmag.com and visit our sister site: http://www.leftofthedialmag.com, where this work is represented alongside reviews and interviews of bands from the last 31 years. The Center hopes to hear from you soon.