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Ann Summa's Punk Rock Pitcha Show

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Diana & Alice Bag circa '78

I almost didn’t go to see Ann Summa’s Los Angeles punk photo exhibition at Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica. No offense to the once, raw obscure photographers who happened to be at the right place at the right time 30 years ago, snapping amazing images of once, raw obscure bands. Your recognition is well past due. It’s just that there’s been a plethora of punk picture/art/flyer/book exhibitions in the past few years and I’ve seen most of them and on the night in question, I was running late from an earlier art opening and thought, “maybe I’ll just skip this one.” Thankfully, I came to my senses and hauled my lazy ass over to Bergamot Station. On the way in, I was greeted by the nostalgic sight of a drunk-off-her-butt teenager being half carried through the parking lot by friends. I took it as a sign from the gods of punk rock.The photos (many previously unpublished) were taken between the years 1978 and 1984, the golden age of L.A. punk. X, the Bags, Germs, Screamers, Alley Cats: all the usual suspects are on display and then some. It was delightful to see “baby” pictures of South Bay and OC bands. Awh, how coot! The show's curator, Kristine McKenna, also tossed in a few shots of the influential (William S. Burroughs and Iggy Pop) and out-of-towners like Johnny Rotten and Lydia Lunch. Not strictly L.A., but context is important.

I was surprised by how polished Summa’s early photos are. Even her blurred shots look atmospheric rather than crude. Where were all those grimy snaps of ugly, snotty kids rolling around on stage that I used to see in Flipside and Slash? Much of Summa’s work is pure portraiture. Her clever lens transformed musicians, scenesters (and a few old friends) into dangerously glamorous creatures.

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Here’s a few tidbits to wet your appetite for viewing: Henry Rollins' Pre-Raphaelite curls; Joanna Went on stage with her semi-porn art in full view; death punk pin-up, Dinah Cancer sprawled across steps; Lux Interior’s ever-slipping leather pants and my favorite, a sheet of proofs of the Minutemen posing around the old SST neighborhood in Torrance—not Long Beach like the card read. Hey, that's OK. People from LA and the Valley think that Torrance is in Long Beach. Just like I think that Encino is in Pasadena. Anyway, the decision to pin up the entire sheet, unframed and unvarnished makes up for any possible Mapquest error. Nothing brings a sniffle on like D. Boon’s cherubic face.

So, for those who missed the Echoplex’s Old School L.A. Punk Hoo-Hah a few weeks back, it’s not too late to get a taste of 1978. In conjunction with this exhibition, Brendan Mullen will be showing slides of the bad old days and signing his coffee table tome, Live at the Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley (in which Summa’s photos appear) on Saturday, Dec. 8th at 8pm. RSVP the Gallery at 310.264.4678.

AND if that’s not excuse enough to see these iconic images, there will be live music at the closing reception (Saturday, Dec. 15th, 7pm). Rumor has it that the Dead Beats, Human Hands, Chairs of Perception (members of the Urinals), Phranc and the ubiquitous Mike Watt (with his Missingmen) will be there. Howzabout you? Get the haps at www.track16.com.

Los Angeles: Photographs by Ann Summa
at Track 16 Gallery through December 15, 2007
Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Ave, C1
Santa Monica, CA
Gallery hours: Tues.-Sat., 11 to 6.

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Photos of The Bags and Darby Crash by Ann Summa, courtesy of Track 16 Gallery