‘Pump Me Up’ exhibit at Corcoran recalls iconic D.C. images

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Cool “Disco” Dan is getting his due.

The graffiti artist’s ubiquitous spray-painted scrawl on D.C. buildings in the 1980s is the subject of a soon-to-be released documentary “The Legend of Cool ‘Disco’ Dan” that will be featured in a Corcoran Gallery of Art’s “Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s” exhibit.

“Downtown, F Street, around the monuments and especially the (Metro) Red Line, commuters saw the graffiti, whether they wanted to or not,” says Roger Gastman, curator of the Corcoran exhibition. “It was such a memorable name to read, he became a legend.”

The documentary will premiere Feb. 23 at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring. Filmmakers Gastman and Joseph Pattisall have posted the movie trailer on YouTube:

Gastman’s Corcoran exhibition, running from Feb. 23 through April 7, documents the connections between graffiti, go-go music and D.C.’s hardcore punk scene.

“Both were very ‘do it yourself,’ very independent, from booking their own shows, finding their own venues, recording and putting out their own music,” Gastman says.

For the uninitiated, explaining go-go can be difficult, he says.

“You say ‘A cross between Parliament and Funkadelic meets hip-hop, put 10 people on the stage and some brass,'” says Gastman. “If they’re of the right age, they hopefully know what I’m talking about.”

If you’re still lost, recall the big bands of the scene: Rare Essence, Chuck Brown, Experience Unlimited and Trouble Funk.

Meanwhile, in the early 1980s, D.C.’s hardcore scene was forming with the help of seminal record label Dischord Records, which is featured prominently in the upcoming exhibit.

“We’re showing a lot of early Dischord items,” Gastman says.

“We have the original sheep drawing from the cover of Minor Threat’s ‘Out of Step’ album, which Cynthia Connolly drew. We have the original handwritten lyrics to the song ‘Straight Edge.'”

Also on display will be a collection of music posters made by Globe Poster Printing Corp. of Baltimore.

“Globe posters were street advertising,” Gastman says. “Just a couple of colors, usually DayGlo colors, with big bold letters.”

Gastman says the posters were everywhere.

“Thick cardboard, they’d get stapled up on lamp posts, signs, and all over D.C.,” he says. “It definitely is a good, warm sense memory, with the type, the logos, the graphics.”

Follow @AugensteinWTOP and