Pretty Vacant: The Graphic Language of Punk

  • sex pistols god save the queen poster

The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design are pleased to announce the launch of their spring 2014 exhibition season with Pretty Vacant: The Graphic Language of Punk, a survey of the extraordinary diversity of punk and post-punk graphic design.  The exhibition will feature several hundred posters, flyers, fanzines, handbills, record sleeves, badges and other graphic materials from the collection of Andrew Krivine.  The exhibition will be on view January 24 – March 15, 2014.

Emerging in the mid-1970s, punk was truly popular culture on the margins, with new ideas germinating out of a sense of urgency and seemingly random aesthetic collisions.   Before it became commercially commodified into a simplified mishmash of safety pins, mohawks and anarchy symbols, punk was as much about its wide range of visual signifiers at it was a kind of music.  A do-it-yourself approach and a loathing of commercial slickness were key hallmarks of the punk attitude, informing not just the music, but also the explosion of graphic design that accompanied it.  Taking cues from a wealth of influences ranging from Dadaism to the Situationist International to pulp fiction, and communicating the themes of nihilism, black humor and reappropriation, the visual language of punk was a pastiche of imagery that reflected the consciousness and anti-aesthetic of a new counterculture.

Featuring several hundred works on loan from New York-based collector Andrew Krivine, the exhibition includes iconic works by some of the most illustrious graphic artists of the period, including Barney Bubbles, Malcolm Garrett, Raymond Pettibon, Jamie Reid, Peter Saville, Linder Sterling, Gee Vaucher and Arturo Vega, as well as pieces created by the hands of talented, yet anonymous, artists.  

Beyond the ‘holy trinity’ of punk – The Clash, The Ramones, and the Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant includes posters, flyers, handbills, record sleeves, badges and other graphic materials created for both iconic and obscure punk and post-punk bands, including: A Certain Ratio, The Adverts, The B-52s, Bauhaus, Blondie, the Buzzcocks, the Circle Jerks, The Cramps, The Cure, the Damned, Devo, Elvis Costello, The Fall, Fear, Gang of Four, Generation X, The Gun Club, Iggy Pop, The Jam, Joy Division,

Killing Joke, Kraftwerk, Lou Reed, New Order, Public Image Limited, Sham 69, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Television and X-Ray Spex.

The legacy of punk has permeated modern culture and society, and its visual vocabulary infuses much contemporary art, while the punk spirit resonates in particular with the anti-elitist, DIY ethos of today's young, blogging artists and musicians.  Pretty Vacant recalls the anarchic spirit of authenticity and amateurism, the volatile and ambiguous celebration of negativity, and the creativity, violence and protest that was punk. 

The exhibition is curated by Kaytie Johnson, Rochelle F. Levy Director and Chief Curator of The Galleries at Moore, and will be accompanied by a catalogue.

Image: Jamie Reid, Sex Pistols: God Save the Queen Poster, 1977, lithograph.  Collection of Andrew Krivine.


The Galleries at Moore receive generous support from Moore College of Art & Design and the Friends of The Galleries at Moore.  The Galleries also receive state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency as well as program support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Philadelphia Cultural Fund, The Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, The Elsie Lee Garthwaite Memorial Foundation and The Barra Foundation. 

The Galleries are grateful to Andrew Krivine for his generous support of the exhibition and exhibition catalogue.


The Galleries at Moore support Moore College of Art & Design's educational mission and role as a cultural leader by providing a forum for exploring contemporary art and ideas, and enriching the artistic climate and intellectual climate of the college, the Greater Philadelphia community, and beyond.  The Galleries' exhibitions and programs create community through dialogue and participation, and inspire an appreciation for the visual arts as a vital force in shaping contemporary culture.

All of The Galleries’ exhibitions and events are free and open to the public.


Monday – Thursday: 11 am – 5 pm
Friday: 11 am - 8 pm
Saturday: 11 am – 5 pm

Closed Sundays and all academic and legal holidays.


The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design are located between 19th and 20th Streets on Race Street, directly across from Aviator Park on The Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  Access The Galleries from the College’s main entrance lobby.

For more information please visit or call 215.965.4027.

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Published on January 15th, 2014