By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
THIS IS ALL, I SUPPOSE, RELATIVELY HARMLESS AS LONG as it doesn't actually convince anybody. When I escorted a pair of 12- and 13-year-old contemporary punk girls to see the show, they weren't fooled for a minute (sample quote: "Where's the politics?"), although they each purchased a $30 dead-guy watercolor (Darby for Jenna; Sid for Dan Rae) from Tomata du Plenty's wall-o-art in the backroom. And, like "Out of Actions," "Forming" -- apart from a seriously fucked premise and lopsided curatorial decisions (anyone remember Savage Republic?) -- is an educational and entertaining multimedia display. Operating essentially as illustrations of an as yet unwritten verbal narrative, with occasional anomolous bursts of artistic excellence -- the "World Imitation Products" section, with splendid works by Steve Thomsen, Jeffrey Vallance and Michael Uhlenkott, is a particularly rewarding nugget of aesthetic goodness -- the show tells a story, and tells it well. With a rich eye for detail and dynamic that epitomizes the postmodern tragedy of the dissipation of community in the glare of media attention (not to mention a kick-ass, though for the most part hypothetical, soundtrack), "Forming," in all its abject, provincial humility, delirious patchwork of visual stimuli and noir humor, deserves to be deemed "good enough."
But the bottom line is this: This show bears witness to the swift, efficient absorption and neutralization of punk subculture by the mainstream, an absorption that apparently produces a moral and aesthetic amnesia in its victims, and which has since accelerated to the point where as soon as two or three people start dressing differently from the rest, they're featured on Entertainment Tonight, ridiculed by Jay Leno and revived as an ironic shill to sell tchotchkes in the monthly Columbia House Record Club catalog before they can agree on a name for their movement. That the Los Angeles punk scene of the early '80s was a vital, anarchistic, communal, artistic uprising is self-evident. That anyone in these culturally malnutritious times should invest energy in fetishistic eulogizing at
the expense of even the slightest gesture of creative
insurgency -- right now -- is a poisonous betrayal of the whole point.
FORMING: The Early Days of L.A. Punk | Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica | Through June 5