Punk Passage + Mining Denver’s Rock Photography

Ruby Ray: Chip Dil Goes Jacknife, 1978

Punk Passage: California and Beyond, 1977-1981 – Photographs by Ruby Ray
+ Mining Denver’s Rock Photography. Artists: Trip@PUNKassPHOTOS.com, John Schoenwalter, Jason Bye, Brenda LaBier, Spike, Matt Mondragon. Curated by Cinthea Fiss.

Exhibition Dates: March 29–May 12, 2012

Members’ Preview Reception: Thursday, March 29, 5-6 pm
Public Reception:  6-9 pm. Featuring live music by Fritz Fox of The Mutants

Fritz Fox plays Astor Piazzola in front of a picture of himself at the reception. Photo: Roddy MacInnes

Mining Denver’s Rock Photography

Press release

Punk Passage: California and Beyond, 1977-1981 will be shown at CPAC alongside Mining Denver’s Underground Rock Photography: seldom seen scenes in local music, an exhibition of new Denver music photography curated by Cinthea Fiss.

In 1977, punk broke through the world psyche like a jackhammer. While the rest of the world listened to disco, a generation of disaffected artists, musicians, filmmakers, and their fans created a new music and look, and a philosophy to embrace it.   In 1977, San Francisco was the center of a vibrant punk scene rivaling Los Angeles and New York. Punk Passage: California and Beyond, 1977-1981 features more than 40 images by photographer Ruby Ray of some of the early mavericks central to the San Francisco and Los Angeles punk scenes. Ray began chronicling San Francisco’s punk scene from the beginning. She helped create the look of the seminal punk culture magazine Search & Destroy, and later RE/Search Publications, of which she was a founding member. Her home and office became a perpetual salon giving her access to many of the punk-era’s musicians and artists. The Punk Passage collection consists of live B&W and color music shots set within a 20th century landscape of decay, with portraits of the musicians, artists, and fans who were the driving force of the movement. Featured bands include The Screamers, Avengers, Mutants, Dead Kennedys (with singer Jello Biafra from Boulder, CO), and Flipper; and people like William Burroughs, Sid Vicious, Darby Crash of The Germs, and Silver Plume, CO resident Fritz Fox of The Mutants.

Mining Denver’s Rock Photography takes a broad look at the Denver music scene by six photographers who approach the subject in varied ways, from different vantage points. John Schoenwalter has been documenting music at the Mercury Lounge for 30 years. He is an important figure in shaping the history of Denver music photography. Trip@PUNKassPHOTOS has been photographing the Punk scene for nine years, starting out while accompanying his then 14-year-old son to shows. He has a personal relationship with most of the local punk rockers and is an integral part of the scene. Brenda LaBier’s photographs of concert music memorabilia draws from her experiences working as a backstage technician. Jason Bye, Matt Mondragon and Spike all photograph the Denver music scene from their own perspective as active participants.

Both shows are presented in collaboration with Search & Destroy, a series of citywide exhibitions, concerts and events in Denver exploring punk’s historical and ongoing relationship to visual art, coordinated around the exhibition Bruce Conner and the Primal Scene of Punk Rock at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Partner institutions include Art-Plant, Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Gildar Gallery, Hi-Dive, Lion’s Lair, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and Underground Music Showcase.

Ruby Ray’s images have appeared in many magazines and books about the punk rock era. (Her iconic photo of Darby Crash is on the cover of his biography “Lexicon Devil.”) They transcend mere band photography and capture the energetic scene with an eye grabbingly graphic and severe beauty. Her historic documentation of San Francisco’s 1970s & 1980s underground music, art, and culture scene provides a rare insider’s look at this pivotal time in the city’s musical history.

Many of these photos will be appearing in her hardback photo book From the edge of the world, West Coast Punk 1977-81, and in her epic online E-Book, Punk Passage, with over 250 photographs (both due out this spring 2012). A version of this exhibit was viewed by almost 10,000 people when it was shown at the San Francisco Public Library’s Jewett Gallery in 2009.  Punk Lives!!

Matt Kennedy at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in LA says: “Multimedia artist, photographer, and journalist Ruby Ray may not be a household name, but with a body of work like hers, she ought to be. In the late ’70s, she managed the SF outpost of London-based Rough Trade Records while documenting the city’s burgeoning punk scene, eventually helping V. Vale establish the legendary alt-culture publication, RE/Search. When I was growing up in Lynn, Mass, the only link I had to the vibrant, angsty Los Angeles punk scene was the photography of Ruby Ray in the seminal fanzine Search & Destroy. Her images of those bands (from The Dils to The Germs to X) were a window into a secret world that would become the soundtrack to my teenaged rebellion about a decade later!   As I drifted from punk to post-punk and modern primitive industrial music, I came to realize that Ruby had beaten me to the finish line there, as well. When I moved here in 1991 and first stepped foot into the Melrose location of Soap Plant, I was greeted by a row of RE/Search publications, completely oblivious to the fact that Ruby Ray had co-founded the magazine that supplied the content for most of those books a little over a decade earlier. That Ruby Ray has been influential to the counter-culture is indisputable, but the extent of her influence is criminally underrated.”

Special Event: Music Scene 

Presentations and Critiques by Ruby Ray, Richard Peterson, and Cinthea Fiss
Saturday March 31, 1-4.30 pm
Place: CPAC. Cost: $15/10 presentations only; $25/15 with portfolio critique

Punk Passage photographer Ruby Ray joins curator/photographer Richard Peterson and curator/media artist Cinthea Fiss for an afternoon of presentations related to their punk rock photography and experiences with the San Francisco and Denver music scenes. Attendees are invited to have their own music photography portfolios reviewed by the speakers after the presentations (Limit 12, surcharge applies).

Ruby Ray lives in San Francisco. Her images of the 1970s & 80s underground music, art, and culture scenes provide a rare insider’s look at the city’s and punk rock era. Cinthea Fiss is a media artist living in Silver Plume, CO. Richard Peterson’s “Artists and Rockers” photographs are on display at MCA Denver March 30 – June 14 and at Gildar Gallery March 23 – April 21.