How do you define the Art Punk style ? Is it a style of music ? A visual art of its own? What is the ideology behind Art Punk?

As a young punk fanatic you are very welcome at Skull World. In this article we will look together in detail at what the art punk movement stands for. You’ll find out how the form (often through the music) and content (mainly through the design) of the topic are emphasized. 🎸

The art of punk, also known as “avant punk”, is a style of music heavily inspired by punk rock. The whole is linked to the art of design, drawing that highlights works or artistic achievements inspired by the world of punk.

Let’s start right away with the most important topic related to punk art: the music!

Punk Art Music

While there is no clear definition or singular style for the genre, let’s look at how the bands that are perceived as “art punk” define themselves. These are usually the ones that combine the no-nonsense rock-and-roll style of punk rock with the « arty » elements of minimalism, elements of traditional folk music from different cultures (such as the Afrobeat influence in the music of the Talking Heads ), experimenting with jazz- or funk-inspired rhythms, dissonance, and experimenting with noise (concepts that derive largely from varieties of “art music” such as modern classical music, jazz, and fusion jazz). 🎹

Art punk is ideologically similar to the art rock and progressive rock styles of the 1960s and 1970s. In the sense that it’s ultimately rock music with a higher level of artistic ambition. However, due to the inherently minimalist nature of punk rock, this artistic ambition generally leans toward more modern and experimental music rather than the old classical European structures that inspired progressive rock.

Punk art style

The punk art style

Art punk style is defined by bands that have a more sophisticated identity than their peers and push beyond the basics of garage rock. These bands created a simple, aggressive, punk aesthetic with a free spirit that contrasted with the angry working-class audiences rock generated. 🤘 In rock music of the 1970s, the term “art” was usually understood as either “avant-garde” or “pretentious progressive”.

Musicologists Simon Frith and Howard Horne have called the leaders of 1970s punk bands “the most outspoken theorists of the art punk movement.” Wire’s Colin Newman described art punk in 2006 as “a generation’s drug of choice.”

In short, it’s a style of music that combines the ambition, intelligence and avant-garde sensibility of art rock with the energy and spartan elements of punk rock. Alternatively synonymous with post-punk or post-hardcore , although usage of these terms is not very common today.

Wire is often considered the ultimate art punk band , although Mission of Burma, or Fugazi, has good reason to be named.

Sex Pistols Poster

The best punk art albums

Punk Art’s very own musical style has brought some great artists onto the popular stage to get a whole generation dancing and singing. Here is a list of the 20 albums that have most marked the history of this progressive style of music:

  1. Idles – Joy as an Act of Restistance
  2. Crack Cloud – Pain Olympics
  3. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
  4. Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
  5. Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death in Meatspace
  6. Talking Heads – Talking Heads 77
  7. Illuminati Hotties – FREE I.H
  8. Protomartyr – ultimate Success Today
  9. Ought – Sun Coming Down
  10. Ought – More Than Any Other Day
  11. Protomartyr – Consolation
  12. Ought – Room inside the World
  13. Iceage – Plomwing Into the Field of Love
  14. Pom Poko – Birthday
  15. Pottery – Welcome to Bobby’s Motel
Top albums punk art

Punk Art Movement

Few cultural movements have had as much of an impact on modern society as punk. Even if, like others, punk’s origins began with images, sounds and slogans. Unfiltered and unaffected by all societal restrictions, the history of the punk movement ‘s influence is primarily associated with New York and London. As a cultural movement, punk is driven by a refusal to sell itself, a desire to do everything yourself, and to be anti-capitalist. As an expression of society’s disgust, working-class anger, and life’s frustration, this ideology is found in fashion , music , literature , and thefine arts . 🎨

The punk visual arts movement is based in part on the anarchist, non-conformist, and anti-artistic approach of Marcel Duchamp and Dadaism. Presented in art galleries and showrooms, punks’ visual art adorns all album covers, flyers, posters, walls and websites of punk bands. Since the late 1970s, this style has been the name for countless paintings and every other art form, and continues to influence the world we live in today.

Angry, aggressive and endowed with strong cultural social messages, punk art defined the way music records were designed and marketed. Like the Dadaists, punk’s visual art style was characterized by letters cut out of newspaper titles, photocopies of national or popular culture images, and collages. 📰

The first artist to create the aesthetic of punk art was Jamie Reid . The British artist is best known for designing covers for the music group Sex Pistols. His work is featured on cover singles such as Anarchy in the UK and Good save the Queen, as well as the albums Here’s the Sex Pistols and Newer Mind the Bollocks. Jamie Reid’s work can be found in museums and galleries including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London.

Photo punk art

Sculptures, photographs and paintings punk

Punk art experienced a revolution in the 20th century. Reinterpreted, the  punk movement’s do-it-yourself approach inspired an entirely new group of artists to create graffiti, political war-related collages, and the look of photocopied images. Punk artworks were explosive combinations of illustrations, lyrics, and montages that included defaced images of punk bands and political satire, among other things. 🔖

Always a bit of a stranger to the art world, anti-artist Alan Vega was a genius in his field. He was known for his artistic sculptures made from electrical objects and used lightbulbs, surrealistic subway drawings and punk paintings. His art expressed the wild energy, chaos and danger of his time.

Let’s not forget the moments when Marcia Resnick’s photographs documented a time when rock punk, art and the beat generation collided. Her photographs capture rock and punk music stars, artists, cultural rebels and supporters of the punk culture movement in the most unique way possible. There is not a single photograph of Resnick that does not contain a profound cultural and social message. Combining confrontation and communication between different words, his photographs explore celebrity, sexuality and lifestyles. 📸

Art punk design

Aesthetics of punk

The punk aesthetic has a flavor and style all of its own. It is an art of opportunism using collage, cartoons, handwriting, cross-lettering, tags and more. It is often a rough, vital style from a completely different, turbulent graphic world . Different in style, in colors and effects, different in the smooth, orderly and conscious parallel universe of design history, of aesthetics. It is often a mixture of two opposing universes that sometimes have no points of contact. Like a little girl holding a chainsaw, or a chicken copulating with a horse… ✍️

The question of the relationship between punk’s “do-it-yourself” design in its most basic form and the later development of graphic design cannot be avoided by anyone sensitive to both punk’s impact and legacy. Experts claim that « the anarchic rise of graphic creativity has revolutionized design ». Here is a clear attempt to reaffirm the importance of punk graphic design beyond the punk subculture !

Punk Art Poster

Punk art today

Although we might say we live in a post-punk factory , punk art has found its way into the fashion industry, the film industry, and marketing concepts and ideas. One sees punk artwork reproduced and marketed on T-shirts, in commercial advertisements and in fashion magazines such as Vogue. There are still artists who continue to produce punk visual art.

These are often people who reject the academic approach to art and do not limit themselves to what you learn in art schools. ❌ There is an old slogan and rallying cry that goes: «  Punk is not dead« . And no, far from it, because many of the punk designs are very new, although the 70’s style still has an extra dose of charm.

You now know exactly what punk art is and how this very distinct culture has come to the fore over the last 50 years. We have seen together that music combined with graphic design, painting and collage is the essence of this ideology. Now it is your turn to join our ranks and affirm your beliefs.