Happy New Year, beautiful freaks!
As we begin lucky 2013, we wouldn't be a proper blog if we didn't take a look back on a very interesting year in tattoo culture. So, I've pulled ten of the most popular posts of the past year -- "popular" being determined by the less-than-scientific method of seeing what got the most hits, Tweets, Likes, FB Comments, and hate mail. Naturally, it was free giveaways that garnered the most love, but outside of our contests -- and there will be many more in the new year to come -- here's what was hot in no particular order:
The Eyeball Tattooing Video. Surprised?
Vice's Tattoo Age Series. An absolute favorite for thoughtful and fun filming of tattoo life, without drama.
WM3's Damien Echols on Tattoos & Tattooing. We were all thrilled for the release of the West Memphis 3, and even more so that Damien Echols found comfort in the tattoo community, and even picked up a machine himself. Here's my Q&A with Damien about his tattoo experience.
Contaminated Tattoo Inks. Risk of serious infection found through the use of non-sterile water in inks.
Arizona Supreme Court: "Tattoos are Free Speech." Our big legal victory of the year! [Many legal posts were also popular, including my usual blather on tattoo copyright, new state legislation, as in Florida's tattoo rules, and how tattoos have weighed on immigration issues.]
Of course, artists profiles are a huge part of the site and they get lots of love. Some of the most linked were posts on Miya Bailey, Chris Dingwell, David Allen, Jef Palumbo, Kristel Oreto, Pat Fish, and more recently, Guy Aitchison & Michele Wortman.
The most shared guest post was that of Paul Roe of Britishink: "The Skuse Family, Batty About Tattooing." It's packed with fantastic tattoo history. Another guest post that was incredibly "Liked" and "Retweeted" was the beautiful tribute Doug Moskowitz wrote on Father's Day about his legendary father Walter Moskowitz in "The Dad Royal."
A Tattoo to Transcend a Breast Cancer Battle. The story of Allison W. Gryphon -- and how she kicked cancer's ass and got the tattoo that marks her victory -- inspired many.
The Latest Tattoo Statistics. People just love nice, neat numbers.
Finally, we're grateful for the love you've shown us as we continue our own tattoo collection. While the actual 8-hours of rib tattooing wouldn't be the highlight of my year, the result certainly was a big one. Thank you, Dan DiMattia! And Brian also started and finished his backpiece by Mike Rubendall (55 and a half hours under the needle). It's nothing short of stunning. But yeah, after long, grueling sessions, your support really has meant a lot.
In fact, we appreciate any time you spend with us, reading the blog or sharing your thoughts on our social media forums and in person at conventions and other events. You have my thanks and most passionate kisses.
Around the beginning of the month, I received the premier issue of Things & Ink magazine from the UK. I dragged myself home after an extremely trying day at work, and in zombie mode, made my way to the mailbox; as usual, I started opening up the envelopes in the notoriously slow ride up the elevator to our apartment. I get to Things & Ink just as the elevator stops at my floor. I stay in the elevator pouring through the magazine. Brian says, "Babe, let's go." I say, "Look at this," and show him the magazine. He says, "Ah, you're finally happy now."
With Things & Ink, editor Alice Snape has created a love letter to tattooed women.
It's an answer to the growing misogyny in tattoo media, especially in the US, where the presence of female tattooists is limited, but there's an abundance of women sucking on their fingers and grabbing their breasts, barely showing any tattoos at all. Now, I have no problem with T&A. Hell, some of my good friends (as the cliche goes) are porn stars. But porn is porn. Don't dress it up in the name of body art when it's just about young, skinny, and mostly caucasian bodies. The great hypocrisy here is that I write for such magazines. The editors have graciously allowed me to feature women artists and also men who don't normally get the press they deserve. For this, I'm grateful. But my little articles are sandwiched in between the hot tattooed chick of the month and an interview with some rock star with bad tattoos. And it makes me sad.
What Alice has done is show the tattoo world that you can have a sexy but also smart, inclusive, and fun publication without bowing down to the lowest common denominator of sleaze and celebrity gossip. I'm getting real tired of reading about Kat Von D's different boyfriends.
Things & Ink describes itself as a "magazine that embraces female tattoo culture, for artists, collectors and those yet to go under the needle. [...] Each issue is filled with beautiful images, real-life stories, tattoos, opinion pieces, fashion, inspiration, art, artists, history, beauty and much more." And it absolutely delivers, all 92 pages, from front to back cover.
Speaking of, it was a fabulous idea to put well respected tattooist Claudia De Sabe on the front cover, recreating the iconic image of Artoria Gibbons, a heavily-tattooed circus lady in the 1920s. All the wonderful people behind the creation of the cover are listed in this blog post, and you can check the backstage footage from the shoot in a video by Papercut Pictures, embedded below.
Inside the magazine is everything from beauty and fashion to personal essays to artist profiles to tattoo history (including text from the wonderful Amelia Klem Osterud, author of "The Tattooed Lady: A History," a must read). I particularly dug the Old School for Girls article, which recreates the traditional pin-up for a female audience, exploring "women's ruin," with fun artwork of some male cheesecake in old school tattoo fashion. But really, it's hard to list all my favorite things in the mag because it's all a refreshing delight. So I asked Alice what her highlights are and here's a bit from what she replied:
The current issue is everything I want to read about myself. I love reading people's opinions about tattoos, so I love the pieces about people's first time. Before I got tattooed, I would love to have read something like this. The thing I am most proud of is the cover, it is perfect. I adore the picture of Artoria and I have always admired Claudia so it is so perfect. It was an honour that she said yes to being on the cover, it really does mean so much to me.Things & Ink can be purchased online here -- either a single issue or full subscription.
It's a quarterly magazine, and the next issue is out in February, just in time for the Brighton Tattoo Convention. Alice says the issue will explore cosmetic tattooing and face tattoos. Even more awesome, they just wrapped a photo shoot with Mo Deeley, a 54-year-old woman who is covered in tattoos and only started getting tattooed a year ago. Also, Amelia will be writing about Lady Randolph.
We'll let you know when that next issue is out. Meanwhile, you can view the latest news about Things&Ink on Twitter and Facebook.
For those who spent too much money over the holidays, we have something you can score for free -- and it is gooood. Sullen Clothing is giving away an incredibly badass hoodie designed by black & grey guru Bob Tyrrell to a lucky Needles & Sins winner. The sweatshirt normally sells for $60 on the Sullen store, so this is a sweet deal.
As usual, here's how to play: One winner will be selected randomly from those who comment -- any love note will do -- on this post in our Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook or hitting up @NeedlesandSins on Twitter. On January 3, 2012, we'll put all the names of the commenters into Randomized.com to pick the winner.
Also, if you haven't entered to win a free tattoo from Bob Tyrrell (exclamation points), you still have until December 31st. More details on the Sullen Facebook page.
What better gift can one give than of art and inspiration, especially when the source is a family who has given so much themselves to our tattoo community?
The Leu Family, for generations, has transformed the way we view tattooing, a craft that can be a fine art in itself. And in doing so they have excited a movement among tattooists to pursue mediums outside of skin.
In the recently published The Art of the Leu Family, the Leu's continue the tradition of enlivening the creative spirit by sharing their own art work in a beautiful 192-page volume, complete with 152 color and 38 black & white images. The book is authored by Aia Leu, daughter of Felix and Loretta Leu, and one of the many talented artists of the clan. Aia, who studied art in Vevey, Switzerland, lives and paints in Ireland and has been exhibiting her work since 1999. The foreword and preface are by Eva Suszkiewicz and Loretta Leu.
The book is now available for pre-order on the Seed Press site for 40 Euro (approx. $53 US), and it ships worldwide in January.
Here's more on The Art of the Leu Family from Seed Press:
With a unique approach, this colourful book illustrates the work of a creative family of artists from Switzerland, spanning the years 1953 to the present. Eva Aeppli the first wife of Jean Tinguely, was the artistic pioneer of the family. Her children are Felix Leu aka Don Feliz and Miriam Tinguely.
The final installment of Vice's "Tattoo Age" series focusing on Thom deVita has been launched (and it's quite a viewing, clocking in at over 24 minutes). Watch the installment above and don't forget to check out the entire series on the Vice website.
In conjunction with the end of this wonderful, five-part film, Kings Ave Tattoo and Vice will be hosting an art show/sale on January 11-13th.
(Via the @kingsavetattoo Instagram account):
Thom's one of a kind creative rubbings from tattoo stencils, art boxes, signed books, and more will be available for purchase. The legendary artist himself will also be present to talk about his art and Scott Harrison will be tattooing deVita inspired tattoos Saturday and Sunday [...] Chris O'Donnell, Timothy Hoyer and [Mike] Rubendall himself will be present and working in the city alongside the everyday crew.
Kings Ave Tattoo is located at 188 Bowery at the corner of Spring St. (on the second floor) in NYC. We'll see you there!
Ok, maybe it's the gift of ouchless-er tattoos, but numbing creams, gels, and sprays are a great present for those looking at some major time in the tattoo chair. Face & Body Professionals has a special bundle for only $85, which includes three of their most popular pre- and post-procedure anesthetics:
Prepcaine is a pre-procedure topical anesthetic.
You can also buy them individually here.
Holiday shopping is painful enough; order online at Face & Body Professionals for a quick and easy way to bring some comfort to those on your gift list, or even a present to yourself.
One of the greatest gifts you could get any tattoo fan is the re-release of Ed Hardy's historic TattooTime series. Here's more from Hardy Marks:
Hardy Marks Publications is excited to announce the re-release of all five issues of our historic Tattootime magazine in one boxed set. This year marks the 30th anniversary of our premier publishing effort, New Tribalism, the book that detonated the explosive growth of tattooing in the late twentieth century.
The set is excellently priced at $50 plus shipping. Order it online here.
It's that time of year when social obligations of the holiday variety outweigh one's attempt to maintain a basic grasp of sanity and reality. Fear not, however, gentle reader... I am here to help you get dressed for these events quickly and in style.
Snowflakes? Check. Inverted pentagram and crosses? Check. Goat skull in a Santa hat? Check. While they bill it as a "sweater" (it's actually just a sweatshirt), Century Media is offering this awesome, "Black Christmas" accoutrement for just $20.
Additionally, if you despise all the Christmas music that's undoubtedly being jammed into your ear-holes, might I recommend an album I recorded a few years ago with The Priestess and The Fool? It's totally free to download and we cover a handful of off-the-beaten-path holiday gems (plus, I love playing The Pogues at a country rhythm).
Click here to visit the site or click here to directly download the zip file.
I had such a pleasure interviewing tattoo power couple Michele Wortman and Guy Aitchison of Hyperspace Studios for the January issue of Inked magazine's Icon feature. [It's the one with Kat Von D and Deadmau5 all lovey on the cover (pre-breakup).]
In the interview, Michele and Guy share how their distinctive artistic styles developed, some of the controversy behind their approaches, how one can be a better artist through attitude adjustment, and their most cherished collaboration: baby Kaia Rose.
Here's a bit from our talk:
You're both renowned for your distinctive styles. How would you describe them?
GUY: I work in abstract style--a lot of different abstract styles--but generally it's earned the definition of biomechanical. This can take many forms as long as it's a nonrepresentational kind of tattooing that flows with the human form. it could be something that is either kind of robotic--imagine a Transformers style--or it could be something a bit more organic, like an alien exoskeleton with all kinds of crazy textures. or sometimes you get a mix. People who get tattoos from me generally just want to get tattooed. a lot of people feel like they need to have a pretext for their tattoo that symbolizes something, but people who have collected enough often will arrive at a place where they are getting tattooed because they're getting tattooed. They like tattoos. They are looking to be decorated. That's the number one rule of this style. Make it attractive, make it flow well with the body, make it sort of exaggerate the musculature a bit. it's meant to be flattering but also meant to instill a sense of, "Wow, I've never seen anything like that before." When people come across it, they should be stopped in their tracks a bit.
Guy Aitchison Tattoo above.
When you first started tattooing and developing this style in 1988, it was really new and innovative.
GUY: Well, I wasn't the first person to do this stuff. I was attracted to H.R. Giger's paintings. That was part of what got me interested in tattooing initially. I wanted to tattoo stuff like that. For those not familiar, Giger designed the sets and monsters for Ridley Scott's Alien movie. It has this look that just has a natural flow, great depth, and a sense of realism to it. I thought it would look great on skin. in my first year of tattooing, I came across a few people who were actually doing Giger paintings as tattoos, and a few had done a really nice job of it. It definitely proved the point that it was a viable style. I then started hanging around a few of these tattooers: Eddie Deutsche, Greg Kulz, aaron cain, and Marcus Pacheco. These are the ones who were really exploring the abstract style at the time. We started working on each other and collaborating in various different mediums, and then diverged away from being Giger clones, and each of us looked to redefine what we were seeing. In particular, I was looking for ways to make it look stronger as a tattoo. I was working with bigger shapes that flowed with the body as the structure for the whole thing. and then you have basically this infinite variety of textures and effects, lighting, things that you can apply to it. So it was definitely influenced by H.R. Giger and by these other tattooers I worked with, but at this particular juncture, 23 years later, it's certainly taken on its own look.
Michele, how did your style develop?
MICHELE: My style originated from being a collector and not necessarily resonating with the early work I collected. I started to assess it more and realized that I wanted something that was more unified, that had less weight to it, and that reflected more of how I was feeling rather than the styles that were available at the time.
Around when was that?
MICHELE: It was around 1995 when I first got a half sleeve. I know that's not very much coverage, but at the time it seemed it, because you didn't really see women with the coverage you see now, and it felt like a big step. Then I got a chest piece a year later. My work had a fair amount of black in it, and I wanted something that felt lighter and a little freer. So I started getting lasered, getting rid of all the black in my ink so that I could reconstruct it, and during that period of time, I became a tattoo artist.
Michele Wortman tattoo above.
Would you say your style is more feminine?
MICHELE: It's interesting you should say that because originally I had wanted a half sleeve of flowers, and this girl looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said, "You would get that. How typical of you." That bothered me, so I decided I would rebel against my feminine nature and get architecture, which is very masculine in my opinion, very manmade. The fact that i rebelled against my feminine nature in the beginning only to come back to it later was an interesting lesson for me--to be comfortable and enjoy things that might be associated with having feminine qualities and not try to fight it and be someone I'm not. That had a lot to do with the energy i was putting into my tattoo work, and that became my defining style.
Black is really part of the old-school tattoo tradition, black and bold. Have you ever been criticized for not following these tattoo tenets?
MICHELE: Absolutely. I've been heavily criticized for my style. I've had people come up to me at tattoo conventions, slam my portfolio down, and tell me that what I was doing wasn't tattooing. So I had a steep hill to climb, and I still feel like I'm climbing it. But if you believe in what you do, you need to stick with it.
Do you have a response to the technical critiques?
MICHELE: I do have a response. Early on there was some validity to their assessment because I was just learning to tattoo and my work wasn't as developed as it is now. It was definitely very experimental, not using black outlines. The black has a boldness to it, and it does seem that it stays in the skin better, so I can see their point. The thing is, work that is soft in contrast with a limited use of black needs multiple passes. If someone has a piece that doesn't look so hot, it's not necessarily because it won't work. You really need to get that saturation and develop contrast over multiple sessions, since you don't have a strong, bold line holding your design in place. It's a different approach to tattooing, so it has its own flavor of rebellion in there, even though it may be viewed as a stereotypical feminine aesthetic.
Read the rest of the Q&A here.
Also check Guy & Michele's online resource for tattooists and collectors: Tattooeducation.com.
More Thom deVita goodness from Vice's Tattoo Age series.
In the fourth installment of this five-part feature, Thom talks about living and working in NYC's Lower East Side, with its grit, guns and junkies, before the luxury hotels and couture boutiques of today. An added bonus is artist and documentarian Clayton Patterson offering some history of the tattoo and art scene of LES, including stories and photos of Mike Mallone and Kate Hellenbrand's time with Thom, which changed their lives. Ed Hardy, Nick Bubash and other tattoo legends also share some of their own personal stories about Thom's innovation and influence.
For me, the highlight is right at the beginning: Thom removing his shirt to show his Huck Spaulding dragon backpiece done in the sixties, a massive work tattooed at a time when people just didn't get big work. And you know, it still looks fantastic -- true to the adage, "Bold will hold."
Check all the Thom deVita episodes:
I'm digging Michael Paul's "One Minute Doc" series, particularly this video profile on Buzzy Jenkins of Fine Tattoo Work in Orange County, Ca. It starts off with Buzzy making needles (rarely see that these days!) and goes through the process of creating a tattoo while his discusses his tattoo philosophy in voice over. The Black Keys makes a perfect sound track for this tight and informative video. Check it.
Also check more of Buzzy's tattoo work.
In a city teeming with many of the world's stellar tattooists, David Sena has consistently stood out as one of NYC's finest for his exceptionally strong and vivid Japanese tattoos as well as bold and beautiful blackwork -- some of the best in the US.
I met David over a decade ago at a tattoo convention in New Jersey. Actually, I first met his client with a blackwork aquatic-themed bodysuit, whom I accosted to find out who did the work. He then took me to David, who seemed a bit confused by this short redhead spewing all kinds of questions at him in the usual hyper state I'm in when I excited by exceptional tattoos. Thankfully, I didn't scare him off and we became friends.
As his friend, I've gotten a front row seat to watch the transformation of his large-scale tattoo projects as well as his fire art; however, David describes his work best:
My fine artwork is created with a technique of drawing by burning marks on paper with fireworks and other volatile materials. These techniques are rooted in one of humankind's earliest technologies: fire, and as such they speak to something elemental in the human condition. Inspired by cosmology and the interconnection between terrestrial and celestial fires, my drawings become a record of their creation, a map pointing to the reason for human existence, or rather the outer limits, the infinite, the space not yet grasped. These two means of creating - tattooing and burning-- have a unique synergy, as they both entail physical and ritualistic processes of mark-making while transforming matter/people.David now has a new space to create his tattoos and fine art: Senaspace in NYC's Little Italy. And he's inviting all of you to its grand opening on 12.12.12, from 6-10pm (afterparty to follow). At the opening, there will be an exhibition of his latest works and live fire drawing demo.
David says of the space: "This gallery and tattoo studio is a reflection of my lifelong interest in diverse modes of artistic expression, and my conviction that art is not a luxury but a sublime human need. I hope this space speaks to you on an aesthetic, visceral, and personal level."
I've already visited the studio and it's a gorgeous space. He plans to regularly feature expositions, projects and guest spots by local and international artists in all mediums. So you'll be hearing more from David here.
SENASPACE, 229 Centre St. NY NY 10013, 212-966-5151, senaspace.com
A long-time supporter of the Needles & Sins family -- and long-time supporter of the tattoo community at large, Professional Program Insurance Brokerage is offering a holiday special to all N+S readers: 10% off on all new policies.
PPIB has been covering the tattoo & piercing industry for 20 years. Their programs include:
For more info contact: Stephanie@tattoo-ins.com or call 415.475.4300. Check them online at Tattoo-ins.com.
Once again, the tattoo world has rallied to help others in need, within and beyond our own community. While the media has "Sandy fatigue" and seems to have lost interest in the massive, long standing effects of the hurricane, tattooists from around the world have contributed fine art, books, tattoo machines, supplies and their own time to the Restore Red Hook Tattoo & Art Show Benefit, which will raise money to help Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood -- an area that was particularly devastated by the storm.
Here's the press release below with details on the event and how to buy art and get tattooed there.
WHAT: "Restore Red Hook Art Show"
WHEN: Sunday, December 16, 2pm -8pm
WHERE: Kidd Studios 133 Imlay St. Brooklyn, NY. 11231
WHY: Help revive Red Hook businesses still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
On Sunday, December 16 from 2pm to 8pm, "The Restore Red Hook Art Show" will bring together some of the most prominent names in the tattoo industry to Kidd Studios (133 Imlay St.) for a benefit to help local Red Hook businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy. In addition to a silent auction, the benefit will offer on-site tattoos, live music, and a cash bar.
The benefit is made possible by Ethan Morgan of Rivington Tattoo (175 Rivington Street), himself a well known tattoo artist who lives in the heart of Red Hook. Ethan's neighborhood was devastated by severe flooding and power outages after Hurricane Sandy struck, October 29. (Ethan himself was without heat, hot water and power for 19 days.) While some businesses are starting to buzz back to life, many are still recovering.
"This is my neighborhood, and these are people I rub elbows with everyday," Ethan said. "I'm just happy I can give something back." All proceeds from the auction will go directly to restoreredhook.org.
The event will include four tattoo stations offering original Hurricane Sandy / Red Hook-inspired designs created specially for the event by Rivington Tattoo. Prices start at $50. The silent auction will offer prints (starting at $20) and original artwork (starting at $50) from artists across the U.S. and as far away as Europe. There will also be a one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted tattoo machine with a retail value of $500.
Participating artists include: Jojo Akermann, Robert Atkinson, Zoe Bean, Mike Bee, Murran Billi, Roberto Borsi, George Campise, Bill Canales, Nick Caruso, Stephane Chaudesaigues, Lior Cifer, Shelby Cobra, Damon Conklin , Patrick Conlon, Andy Engel, Mike Godfrey, Mark Harada, Hek1, Dana Helmuth, Sean Herman, Robert Hernandez, Marisa Kakoulas**, Tim Kern and James Kern, Dan Marshall, Daniel Mirro, Rob Nunez, Pili Mo'o, Shane O Neil, Coco Octaviosen, Jeffery Joel Page, Alex de pase , Mike Pike, John Reardon, Betty Rose, Mikael Schelén, Lara Scotton, Magie Serpica, Alex Sherker, Sweety, Guy Ursitti, James White and Chet Zar.
My submission as a "participating artist" is the Photorealism volume (#3) of Black & Grey Tattoo Art. You won't find it cheaper so be there and bid!
Check some of the fine art being auctioned:
You know who likes John Coltrane? People who don't like jazz.
While I disagree with that statement 100%, I'm still loving the Vice Tattoo Age series on (the steadfastly opinionated) Thom deVita. Check out part 3 above or click here to view it on YouTube.
While I try to remain abreast and aware of the street-art scene in NYC, I regretfully admit that France often passes under my radar despite their thriving community. (Plus, I often avoid any article that includes the words "Scarlet" and "Johansson")
That said, I was quite pleased to see this interview with Fuzi over at Complex as he discusses his "ignorant style" in both graffiti and tattooing.
Read the interview here and check out Fuzi's website over here.
We have our contest winners for the fabulous children's book that teaches tattoo acceptance and appreciation, "Daddy Has a Tattoo." by Phil Padwe. I took the names of all those who posted on our FB Needles & Sins Syndicate Group and hit me up via @NeedlesandSins on Twitter, then plugged them into Randomized.com, and here's the result:
Congrats, Mick Ddmc from Dublin, Ireland and Beth [@killerbea9] from Ohio!
Even if you didn't win, you can buy "Daddy Has a Tattoo" on Amazon for $11.95 and pick up "Mommy Has a Tattoo" on Amazon as well for $10.95.
So I'm at a friend's house last night and we're trying to dissect the never-ending popularity that is "Gangnam Style," the pop song by South Korean rapper Psy whose video, according to the Chicago Tribune, "recently became the most watched item ever posted to YouTube with more than 800 million views." I made an offhand comment that something so viral in pop culture will eventually be someone's tattoo.
We googled. And we wept.
There is not only a Gangnam Style tattoo, there is a video of its own. Our dismay, however, was more about subject matter than actual execution. The tattoo, which is documented in the video from sketch to finish (perhaps a minute too long), is actually pretty good. But I nevertheless think that parodies and tributes should generally stay on YouTube and not in skin.
What do you think about these pop culture fad tattoos? Post your comments in the N+S Facebook Group or Tweet at us.
In September, we posted on the L.A. Skin & Ink exhibit, which is currently on view at the The Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles until January 6, 2013. We won't be able to make it to the West Coast before its closing, and so we're grateful to Dr. Anna Felicity Friedman, who offers this insightful review of the exhibition -- and a bit of a tattoo history lesson. The value of her expertise here is not limited to her thoughts on this particular show but also makes an excellent guide for those seeking to organize their own tattoo exhibitions. For more from Anna, check her Tattoo History Daily blog.
By Dr. Anna Felicity Friedman
As a tattoo-history scholar and curator, I'm always excited for the opportunity to see new exhibits that highlight the art form I love so much. My recent Thanksgiving trip to Los Angeles gave me the opportunity to stop by the LA Skin & Ink show at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. From the press release, I was expecting an in-depth investigation that "explores the unique role of Los Angeles in the Tattoo Renaissance over the last 60 years.
Sadly, the exhibit did not fulfill my expectations. Instead it presented a curatorially confused mishmash of flash, photographs, and artwork. Was this a tattoo history show? A show of fine art by tattoo artists? A show of art somehow generally related to tattooing? Upon rereading the press release post-visit, I probably should have tempered my enthusiasm in advance--it trots out many of the usual myths about tattooing pre-Renaissance being the purview of sailors and criminals (not to mention the typographical errors, which usually predict a general lack of attention to detail or consistency).
From my first steps into the exhibit, a disconnect between what the museum wanted the exhibit to be and what the exhibit ended up being became immediately clear. The wall text promises an exhibit about LA tattooers who "have been instrumental in researching and refining the distinct styles of Japanese, Tribal, and Black and Grey tattooing." It was a shock to turn around and then see, situated across from the wall text, essentially, an installation art piece rooted loosely in old-school Americana (described in the exhibit label as a "site-specific installation" by Lucky Bastard, Buzzy Jenkins, and Lincoln Jenkins). A wall filled with sheets of mid-20th-century flash hovered above an artist's evocation of a "historic" tattoo "station."
After a video monitor screening interviews with LA tattoo artists and collectors, the exhibit then transitioned into a brief tattoo-technology section. The press-release promised "tattoo equipment" which would make one assume there would be a sizeable selection. Two power supplies, two machines, and a single photograph of a machine, with a short 3-paragraph text about "How It Works" didn't really do any justice to an understanding of this aspect of tattooing nor was any unique LA angle with respect to tattoo technology obvious.
The next section started the confused mix of work that would characterize the rest of the show. Under the heading "American Traditional," classic old-school artists Bert Grimm and Bob Shaw shared a wall with Cliff Raven's work--much of it from his Chicago days, not his California ones. Across from them, tagged as "Japanese," hung Sailor Jerry flash and some contemporary fine-art pieces by Ed Hardy. At the end of the room a selection of "Tribal" tattooing highlighted Leo Zulueta's blackwork, which along with one of the pieces representing Zulu's work around the corner, appeared to be the only "tribal" included in the show.
Especially problematic for me in this gallery, I struggled to grasp why Sailor Jerry, who as far as I know did not work in LA, had been included in the show (and given such a large and prominent section). Also, none of the Hardy pieces were either from his LA days (the pieces were dated 1999-2007) nor particularly tattoo related (all of Hardy's fine-art work aesthetically draws at least a bit from his many years as a tattooer, but many, many other pieces would have been better choices for this exhibit--I would have loved to have seen in person some of the Bert-Grimm-inspired flash Hardy drew as a kid living in Orange County reproduced in "Tattooing the Invisible Man."