An Interview with Cesar Padilla, Curator of RIPPED: Expressions from the Underground


Cesar Padilla is an author, musician, photographer, filmmaker, collector, vintage clothing dealer, and now a curator. His book, RIPPED: T-shirts from the Underground, is a visual history of counterculture music t-shirts, in all their iconic indie glory.

RIPPED: Expressions from the Underground is the first ever comprehensive museum exhibition to explore the art and influence of punk rock on design and culture. It opens at the FIDM Museum & Galleries on the evening of Thursday, November 8th with a free concert in Grand Hope Park. Held in conjunction with LA’s Downtown Art Walk, the event is from 6–10pm.


Cesar Padilla filled us in on how this all happened…

In your book, RIPPED: T-shirts from the Underground, you explain that your sisters raised you at rock shows on Sunset Strip. From your 10-year-old point of view, what were some of your most memorable moments?

Wow! So so many! Andy Gibb pumping gas in his Corvette across the street from the Whiskey, Shaun Cassidy splitting his spandex pants and the audience going berserk, going to all the Battle of the Network Stars and other events, seeing The Runaways in the swim relay, seeing the Plugz and X for the first time. My first concert was the Brady Bunch at Knotts Berry Farm in 1972 at the age of 5.

Would you care to discuss the difference between Sunset Strip then and now?

The Sunset Strip of my youth was magic: urban decay, decadence and a new sound!


In your book, you mention that your mother threw away your t-shirt collection that documented your youth—and that you have been searching for your Holy Grail ever since. Have you found it?

No. The Holy Grail is Richard Hell’s “PLEASE KILL ME” t-shirt.

If you could travel back and save one of your discarded t-shirts—which one would it be?

It wouldn’t be a shirt, it would be my signed pizza box from The Ramones!


Did you ever think your involvement with the punk rock music scene would lead to a museum show?

No, I really had no idea. But about 10 years ago I realized a lot of stuff had ended up in the trash, just by the nature of the nihilism of the movement. I’m just a big fan of music and the music I grew up listening to.

The t-shirts in the exhibition are messages from the underground—what is the message that you want visitors to RIPPED to hear/see/feel?

That you can make a difference! Just stay true and DO IT!


Lydia Lunch wrote the introduction to your book and is performing at the opening night concert. How did you first meet?

I was on my bike in New Orleans and she had just arrived to move there. A mutual close friend, performance artist Ron Athey, had already set it up for us to meet the next day. She was in a car with Bettina from Malaria driving through the French Quarter when I saw her in the passenger seat and I said, “Hey, Lydia, it’s Cesar.”

Of your current collection, can you pick a favorite T?

The Shangri-La's, Plasmatics, and Big Boys are definitely up there!

Who are you listening to now?

Phantom Family Halo, who are also performing on opening night.

In the introduction to your book, Lydia Lunch states, "The personal is political." How do you think that manifests itself in 2012 within the artist/musician world—or does it?

Social activism is the most effective. Walk the walk. Live it. Own it. Be it. DO IT!

Anything else you would like to share with our readers & visitors?

If you are not doing something you want to be doing, you are doing something wrong.

Opening Night Concert: Thursday, November 8th, 2012, from 6–10pm

Cesar Padilla

The opening of RIPPED: Expressions from the Underground will be held in conjunction with LA’s popular Downtown Art Walk. The free event will be Grand Hope Park in front of the museum. There will be musical performances and readings from RIPPED: T-shirts from the Underground, edited by curator Cesar Padilla.

Scheduled bands:

  • Lydia Lunch Presents Retro Virus
  • Ritchie White Orchestra featuring Cesar Padilla
  • Phantom Family Halo

Scheduled readings by:

Lydia Lunch, Roddy Bottum, Howie Pyro, Kari Krome, Mat Côté, Jennifer Schwartz, Richard Schuler, and Allison Wolfe. More to be announced.

RIPPED: Expressions from the Underground is sponsored by Cherry Vintage. Joe’s Jeans is the Denim Sponsor.

Exhibition Information:

November 9–December 22, 2012

Tuesday through Saturday, 10am–5pm

Museum open on Friday and Saturday, November 23rd and 24th.

Accessories from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection at The Annette Green Fragrance Archive


Shoes; Europe, c. 1800; Leather, canvas & ink; Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection; L2011.13.534AB

Accessories from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection is one of two current exhibits drawn from Helen Larson’s exceptional private collection. Surveying footwear, fans, gloves, purses, and hats, these acquisitions demonstrate Helen Larson’s keen eye for and appreciation of fashion history. From a pair of 1860s men’s floral Berlin woolwork slippers to a 1930s crimson reptile skin handbag, the importance of adornment is strikingly clear to the viewer of this visually remarkable installation.


FIDM Museum Shop

The FIDM Museum Shop is ready for RIPPED! Original art, a pop-up vintage store, and punk-inspired accessories capture the aesthetic and ethos of the indie lifestyle and DIY movement.

Original collage art, created from old record album covers, by artist, graphic designer, and FIDM instructor Graham Moore will be featured in the shop. Moore created the logo and poster design for RIPPED, and epitomizes the DIY approach.

Graham Moore

“The subject matter in a lot of my collages contains many fragments of vintage album covers, packaging, found imagery and ephemera, even pieces of billboard advertising… I am especially influenced by American popular culture from the 1960s–1970s. I was part of the d.i.y, cut+paste generation in the early 80’s and designed many club flyers, etc., so naturally I jumped at the chance to design imagery for RIPPED!”

In the spirit of RIPPED, the shop will also feature a selection of jewelry by designer Michael Spirito.

Michael Spirito

Pieces from the new collection celebrate his 10 years in business and feature the skulls, daggers, oxidized sterling melded with 14K gold, and the vivid precious and semi-precious stones he is known for. All his designs are handmade in his New York studio and are regularly seen in fashion magazines, on musicians and celebrities.

On opening night, Lydia Lunch will sign copies of her new book, The Need to Feed, and Cesar Padilla will sign RIPPED: T-shirts from the Underground.

The pop-up vintage boutique within the shop is a collaboration with Cherry Vintage and will offer one-of-a-kind t-shirts, fashions, and related ephemera. New pieces will arrive throughout the course of the exhibition.

Visit the FIDM Museum Shop for a fabulous selection of one-of-a-kind jewelry, amazing treasures, and exclusive gifts and see why we have won Downtown LA’s Best Unique Store for the past three years.


FIDM Museum Fashion Council Presents:

  • Monarchy Lecture & Royal Tea
  • As originally presented at Kensington Palace, London, England
  • FIDM Orange County Campus
  • Saturday, December 1, 2012
  • 9:30am–12:30pm
  • Tickets $50

Visit the FIDM Museum shop for more information and to purchase tickets.

  • GLAD 2B M.A.D.!
  • Member Appreciation Days 2012

FIDM Museum & Shop will participate with 21 other LA-area museums by being open and offering a 20% discount on merchandise on Friday and Saturday, November 23rd and 24th.

2012 Exhibitions

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