In 1977, Los Angelenos Alice Armandariz and Patricia Rainone formed The Bags, who went on to become an important (if brief-lived) fixture in the LA punk scene. What little footage I’ve seen of their live performances still sends shivers up my spine — Alice is such an indomitable force in stiletto boots and torn t-shirts, blackened eyes and shock of hair (sometimes covered by a paper bag for the band’s early performances), all sneer and prowl on stage. In still photographs, Alice is beautiful, tough, defiant and intense, whether she’s wearing bondage pants or a ’60s femme fatale black sheath dress. Women like Alice Bag were my style references for punk rock feminism when I was a suburban teenager dreaming of escape.
I bring her up because of the new exhibition Vexing: Female Voices from LA Punk at the Claremont Museum, at which Alice Bag performed for the exhibition’s opening night gala. (Check out the Los Angeles Times article about the exhibition here.) Here’s part of the exhibition’s description:
The burgeoning punk rock music scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s in East Los Angeles provided an electrically charged, creative climate. This scene created an atmosphere where performance mixed with poetry, and visual culture was defined by an aesthetic and an attitude. Artists and musicians interfaced and blurred the lines of actions, documentation, photography, sound and style. Taking its name from the all-ages music club The Vex, once housed within East Los Angeles’ Self Help Graphics and Art, Vexing is an historical investigation of the women who were at the forefront of this movement of experimentation in music, art, culture and politics, while exploring their lasting legacies and contemporary practices. This documentary-style exhibition will include photo, video and audio archives of the era as well as studio work encompassing painting, installation, writings and performance.
I hope I can get to Los Angeles again (my girlfriend is a dedicated partisan to the early LA punk scene, and we somehow missed the exhibition when we were in town a few weeks ago) before the exhibition closes, but meanwhile, I’m inspired to try to incorporate Alice’s amazing presence in the coming months. Check out the rest of her amazing photo gallery at her website. (And for the site –and posts– that inspired this one, check out No Good For Me’s own list of style icons.) (Mimi)