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HAPPENINGText: Garry Waller

Anarchy to Affluence: Design in New York, 1974 -1984 is an exhibition currently hosted by Parsons school for Design. It takes a glimpse at a time in which New York spawned a creative community that has left an endellible mark on the city. The exhibit covers the areas of fashion, graphic design and home decor, all of which reflect the experimentation and creativity of this time. It was a period when Artists, designers and musicians were contributing to a highly volatile and expressive climate and New York, shunning the conservatism that had swept through America in favor of a more expressive approach.

Ramones record cover

Printed ephemera for bands like the Ramones, cover sleeves for the Sex Pistols and Patti Smith are exhibited. They all display the low-tech production process of photocopy machines and rudimentary cutting and pasting that became the trademark of this era. Texture found its way into everything and demonstrated upmost disregard for anything carefully managed or too orderly. Derivative of the music that the design was portraying at the time it was more about doing things manually and not caring about doing what was expected; especially print design “Glossy production values and fancy typography were shunned in favor of improvised dadaist collages that mirrored the in-your-face quality of the music”.

Jamie Reid’s 45 rpm cover for the Sex Pistols, 1977

Also on display are outfits designed by Stephen Sprouse, Betsey Johnson, Norma Kamali. Each designer in their own right trying to fashion their creations with materials, patterns and cuts that only a punk would get away with wearing! Sprouse took immediate inspiration from the city by applying razor wire, chain-link fencing, bullets and graffiti as textures to a lot of his creations; Kamali emphasizing the anti-establishment approach by using low-budget materials like paper and parachute fabric for her outfits; and Harry Parness and Nicola Pelly’s creations characterized by massive shoulders, small waists, lots of velcro and zippers, designed to accomodate a “new way of life”.

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