Julia Gorton

New London Exhibition Explores New York’s No Wave Scene

A new London exhibition features rare photos of the likes of Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop.

The No Wave post-punk movement of New York was born during the late 70s when the city was going through a bit of a rough patch. With crime rates up and employment down, the No Wave movement represented an abrasive and avant-guard viewpoint of the world and a retaliation to the way that punk rock had become a bit of a cliché.

Weasel Walter, founder of the band The Flying Luttenbachers, explains the movement best as part of his foreward to the Marc Masters book No Wave:

I began to express myself musically in a way that felt true to myself, constantly pushing the limits of idiom or genre and always screaming “Fuck You!” loudly in the process. It’s how I felt then and I still feel it now. The ideals behind the (anti-) movement known as No Wave were found in many other archetypes before and just as many afterwards, but for a few years around the late 1970s, the concentration of those ideals reached a cohesive, white-hot focus.

A new exhibition in London will explore an often undocumented and unseen side to the movement through a collection of photographs from Julia Gorton. The exhibition, held at Untitled bar in Dalston, London, runs through some of the most notable music icons of the late 70s music scene.

Speaking to i:D in the build-up to the exhibition, Gorton explained that she “didn’t know much about photography or the streets above 14th street, but the area below — it was my home, and taking photos was my passion.”

The majority of the photographs, which feature Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, and Iggy Pop amongst many others, were taken during her time working on the Beat It! fanzine. Working for the fanzine gave her an unprecedented viewpoint to the many No Wave stars.

Her own take on the movement correlates accordingly with that of Walter’s:

“No Wave had nihilism, dark humour, beat literature, and the musical avant-garde as just part of its extensive and varied influence,”

For those who can’t make the exhibition in London, Gorton has been sharing some of the photographs on her Instagram page.

The Pretty in Punk exhibition runs until the end of February at Untitled bar in Dalston, London.

Written by Adam Maidment

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