The Corcoran to Present an Exhibition Exploring DC’s Punk and Go-Go Culture

“Pump Me Up,” curated by graffiti artist and historian Roger Gastman, will document the city’s thriving artistic scenes in the 1980s.

By: Sophie Gilbert

The Corcoran announced today that in February it will present the first major museum exhibition dedicated to DC’s legendary music and art scenes in the ’80s. “Pump Me Up: DC Subculture of the 1980s” opens February 23, and is curated from the collection of artist, writer, and producer Roger Gastman.

Gastman, who grew up in Bethesda, started his first graffiti magazine when he was 19, titled While You Were Sleeping. In those days, he told the New York Times last year, “everyone had a tag. It was just what you did.” Now in his mid-thirties, Gastman co-produced the Oscar-nominated Banksy documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop; published several books, including 2011’s The History of American Graffiti; and co-curated the “Art in the Streets” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles last year.

“Pump Me Up” will explore the underground art and music scenes that emerged in DC 30 years ago, including go-go, hip-hop, punk, and the proliferation of graffiti artists such as Cool “Disco” Dan. The Corcoran’s main atrium rotunda will display artifacts from the time, including posters, newspaper clippings, photographs, and more, as well as a timeline detailing key moments in DC history, from the 14th Street riots to the origins of go-go in the ’60s and ’70s.

The museum hopes to stage a number of different events accompanying the show, including lectures, panel discussions, and more.* Also released alongside the show will be a 320-page book accompanying the exhibition and The Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan, a documentary narrated by Henry Rollins and featuring interviews with MacKaye, Marion Barry, and the late godfather of go-go, Chuck Brown.

*This post has been updated from a previous version.