Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die Punk Exhibition Opens at MAD Museum

Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986 is coming to the Museum of Arts and Design this spring. See the legacy of punk music through the graphic design it inspired, from album covers to flyers to zines in a large collection of artifacts. The exhibition opens April 9 and runs through August 18.

Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics Museum of Arts and Design

The graphics created in tandem with the punk scene brought visual language to its ironic, underground, and confrontational ethos. Artists created unique images to promote punk shows, serve as album covers, and fill the pages of Punk magazine. The over 400 articles in Too Fast to Live come from a range of sources representing the peak of punk underground and the rise of post-punk and New Wave scenes.

Buttons Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die Museum of Arts and Design

Buttonsthe easiest, most colorful, least expensive way to show love for your favorite band. A wide assortment are on display in the exhibition.

The exhibition will be arranged according to design themes that characterized punk imagery, such as parody, pastiche, expropriation, collage, minimalism, and maximalism. Graphic artists also drew inspiration from comic books, horror, and sci-fi to represent the punk scene. An archetypical punk graphic is the iconic Jamie Reid cover for the Sex Pistols’ single “God Save the Queen.” This anarchic, irreverent image features an image of the British flag with Queen Elizabeth II in the center, her eyes and mouth covered with collaged text.

Designers Malcolm Garrett and Peter Saville made materials for bands like the Buzzcocks and Joy Division, respectively, that will be featured in the exhibition; they have also contributed promotional images for the exhibition. Other graphic artists featured in Too Fast to Live might include Peter Saville, Linder Sterling, and Ian Dury and Raymond Pettibon for the band Black Flag.

In the museum theater, check out Please Kill Me: Voices from the Archives, a film playing on loop as part of the exhibition. The film features interviews with Iggy Pop, Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, and Debbie Harry, and offers a glimpse of additional punk graphics and rare photography.

Please Kill Me: Voices from the Archives Black Flag The Ramones

During the exhibit, the documentary (left) Please Kill Me: Voices from the Archives will be shown. Top right, Blag Flag logo, created by Raymond Pettibon; bottom right, The Ramones' debut album cover. 

The punk rock movement spawned from several key bands in urban centers like New York and London in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Punk was young, grungy, and angry, and often characterized by anti-establishment lyrics shouted or screamed over shredding guitar. The New York club CBGB in the East Village was arguably the epicenter of the punk scene, hosting foundational bands like the New York Dolls, the Patti Smith Group, and The Ramones in the 1970s. Groups like the Sex Pistols and The Clash galvanized the movement in the U.K. By the early 1990s, punk had hit the mainstream with the success of Nirvana and their single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Public programming during Too Fast to Live will include a night of punk music DJ’d by Phast Phreddie and an event about punk photography. In addition to events on punk fashion and various bands, the museum will also screen a series of punk films from around the world throughout the exhibition run.

This exhibition was first organized by the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Nearly all items come from the private collection of Andrew Krivine, a New York native and avid punk fan who saved every flyer and album sleeve he obtained during punk’s heyday. The exhibition was curated by Andrew Blauvelt.

Johnny Rotten Gillian McCain

On April 15, MAD Museum will present In Conversation: Johnny Rotten Lydon and Gillian McCain, at 2pm. Lydon was the lead singer of The Sex Pistols; Gillian McCain is the co-author with Legs McNeil of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk.

The Museum of Arts and Design is located at 2 Columbus Circle. Call 212-299-7777 or visit for tickets and more information.

About the Author

Merrill Lee Girardeau lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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