Like all vital, dynamic art movements throughout history, punk rock suffered from the high bar set by the earliest proponents of the movement. By 1980, no punk band in England could ever hope to match what the Sex Pistols and Clash had done and likewise in Los Angeles, the Germs and Black Flag were high water marks of the genre that few in the mid to late 1980s could reach.
As it was for the bands in L.A., so too was it for the photographers on the scene. The footsteps of the great Ed Colver were impossible to fill. With the lion's share of the iconic shots hoarded by that one talent, few could imagine that an artistic record of the ongoing movement would make for a compelling art exhibit.
And yet, almost thirty years after he began, Krk Dominguez has delivered a reminder that there was life after "Damaged" in the clubs and bars and that documenting it in the shadow of a giant allowed him to find his own artistic voice. Hanging floor to ceiling, the over-poster-sized photo editions are printed on thick paper and feature glimpses into bygone moments of beer, sweat, anarchy and the culture of suburban American nonconformity made manifest.
The bands that came after punk's first wave knew they were not foraging new territory and that created a hunger to push any edge they ever happened upon. At L.A.'s Lethal Amounts Gallery, Dominguez presented "More Than A Witness," his solo exhibit documenting thirty years of photographing punk and alternative performances. Dominguez casts a wide umbrella to describe the scene he covered: Post-Hardcore. The Post-Hardcore scene broke from many orthodoxies that had strangled the creative energy out of punk. Long hair, the last taboo of original punk, seems the trademark at times in these pictures. Bands suddenly didn't give a shit to admit they liked Black Sabbath as much or more than they liked Fear or Bad Religion. The Post-Hardcore scene welcomed many touring acts through Los Angeles, returning the favor that many early L.A. greats had done small scenes nationwide in relentless touring across the country.
A large centerpiece triptych of GG Allin installed beneath an enlarged proof sheet of Norvana playing in 1989 at Al's Bar. From the Krk Dominguez solo show "More Than A Witness: Post-Hardcore and Beyond 1985-2015." Lethal Amounts Gallery, Downtown Los Angeles.
Post Hardcore was good at finding the edges and Krk's camera found its chief purveyors heading straight toward the cliff. The glazed eyes of GG Allin stare into oblivion in the show's artiest indulgence, a wall installation triptych that repeats the same photo of Allin once on a car hood and twice on more traditional rectangular surfaces. The patron saint of self-destruction holds center court, but look above - a proof sheet blowup of Nirvana playing to twenty people on a bill they shared with bands like Claw Hammer at Downtown L.A.'s Al's Bar in 1989. The installation seems to imply that while Allin did himself in quite spectacularly, Kurt Cobain was ultimately no less self-destructive when he committed suicide.
A photo of Nirvana at Raji's from 1990 emblazoned across the front window of the Lethal Amounts gallery. From the Krk Dominguez solo show "More Than A Witness: Post-Hardcore and Beyond 1985-2015." Lethal Amounts Gallery, Downtown Los Angeles.
Nirvana pops up a lot here, with the legendary Claw Hammer co-bill show and hanging out at Raji's two years before fame would strike, pre-Dave Grohl. Nirvana's "Grunge" label belies them as the ultimate purveyors of a Post-Hardcore sound that fearlessly played verses slower than the punk thrash standard and then blew out all cylinders in sheer intensity on choruses. Yes, they were the band that "won it all" and in true punk fashion, threw it all away. And Krk was there when they were just one more band to shoot and interview for the pages of Flipside, L.A.'s longest-running punk zine.
The motto of founder Al Flipside: "Be more than a witness," is a maxim Dominguez took in earnest. We are treated to a chaotic stage shot of Savage Republic that blurs where the band ends and the crowd begins. GWAR in all of their costumed glory are still the furthest thing from quaint over 25 years after Krk shot them in what appears to be a nightclub parking lot. Fugazi, the Dwarves, the Melvins - it all starts to blur in an installation that packs in large prints with no concept of what a minimal hanging might even look like. And were proper gallery centerline hanging instructions given, well, El Duce, of the Mentors, has a time-honored one-finger salute to cure you of any illusions of artsy seriousness or nostalgia for a simpler time.
•All photos here from the gallery's opening reception courtesy of Ben Easley.
•Photos of Nirvana and El Duce are courtesy of the artist.
•Krk's solo show runs thru the end of September at Lethal Amounts Gallery in Downtown L.A. - for more info visit their website.
•Follow Krk Dominguez online: FaceBook - KRK Dominguez • instagram: @krkdominguezphoto