Results tagged “Takahiro Kitamura”

02:35 PM
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Making the social media rounds in tattoo circles is The Atlantic's "Highbrow Ink" article, which discusses the growing acceptance of tattoos in the fine-art world. Excusing the horrid opening with the cliche that tattoos are no longer a symbol of rebellion, the article raises some interesting issues about custom designs versus flash, tattoos versus the gallery business model -- and also how the fine art world just doesn't know what to do with tattooers, as noted by our friend Takahiro Kitamura, who is interviewed.

For me, the gem of the piece is the mention and link to the 1995 NY Times article "Tattoo Moves From Fringes To Fashion. But Is It Art?", which I've cited a number of times in my own writing. Here's what The Atlantic says of it:

The New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman argued in 1995 that tattoos were most interesting to the art world because of their "outsider status," even comparing them to "self-taught art, prison art, and art of the insane." But this shouldn't be seen as a knock against them. "If you look through art history, there's always an art form that's emerging that's not as accepted," says Lee Anne Hurt Chesterfeld, a curator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. One example is woodblock printing, a key influence in Japanese tattooing. "It wasn't exactly considered museum-worthy for a long period, and now every museum you walk into will have something related to woodblock printing," Chesterfeld says.

But beyond the question of whether tattoos are "museum-worthy" are more practical considerations. Tattoos simply aren't objects that can be put in a glass case or inside a frame, similar to performance art, which specifically tried to resist the museum model and commercialization of art.
What is not discussed is how tattooers themselves view their work. There are some very staunch traditionalists that say that tattooing is only a craft and not an art. Others ask how tattoos can be anything but an art. And I've heard others describe themselves as "skin mechanics." I say that tattoos can be all of the above and more so, depending on the work, relationship and context.

Whatever you call it, tattoos will always hold a fascination because of its very nature -- a work that can walk out of a gallery on its own and not belong to anyone but the one wearing it.
03:21 PM
Tattoo by Sua Suluape Peter.jpgTattoo by Su'a Sulu'ape Peter. Photo by John Agcaoili.

tatau.jpgTattoo by Su'a Sulu'ape Aisea; Photo by John Agcaoili.

Despite a long history of attempts at eradication, Samoa's tatau has persevered and played a pivotal role in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture. "Tatau: Marks of Polynesia" explores the history, identity, beauty and bond of the indigenous art form. The exhibition is set to open on July 30, 2016, at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles; however, it needs support from the community to achieve the goals it has set to best educate and inspire.  

Donate to JANM's Indiegogo campaign today. [There are only 14 days left to meet the goal.] Your funds will go directly toward the costs of producing Tatau: Marks of Polynesia, from photographing the work to installing the exhibition at the museum to publishing the full-color catalog.

As with most crowdfunding, there are perks -- and there are particularly stellar perks here, including 3 hours of tattooing by tatau masters, private tours and VIP opening invites, photo prints, catalogue copies, and noted support in exhibit materials, among much more. All donations are at least partially tax deductible (if you decline perks, 100% of your contribution is tax deductible).

You can learn more about the exhibit from the video (embedded below), and from the campaign site. Here's a bit from that:

Through photographs taken in the studio and on location in Samoa, Tatau will showcase the work of traditional tatau masters alongside that of younger practitioners and artists who are adopting tatau's motifs and styles for new media and art forms. Viewers will be able to appreciate the sheer beauty of Samoan tattoos while at the same time learning about what they signify in Samoan culture, and how they help Samoans and other Polynesians living abroad stay close to their identity and their heritage. Public programs during the run of the exhibition, such as panel discussions and workshops, will help the public to further engage with the material. Tatau will also be accompanied by a full-color catalog that includes a scholarly essay.

Tatau is organized by the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) and curated by Takahiro "Ryudaibori" Kitamura, the master tattoo artist and author who previously curated the successful exhibition Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World for JANM in 2014. Kitamura is collaborating with John Agcaoili, photographer; Edward Danielson, MA, lecturer in the Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures, University of Hawai'i; Sulu'ape Steve Looney and Danielle Steffany-Looney of Pacific Soul Tattoo in Hawai'i; Sean Mallon, author and Senior Curator of Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; and Sulu'ape Si'isi'ialafia Liufau of A-Town Tattoo.

07:48 AM
Janm.jpgjapanese tattoo 1.jpgTattoos on the Instagram square: the woman is tattooed by Horikiku, and the man by Yebis. In the full portrait, tattoos are by Shige, Yellowblaze. All photos by Kip Fulbeck.   

"Perseverance - The Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World" is a photographic exhibition by Kip Fulbeck, which explores the artistry and master craftsmanship of traditional Japanese tattooing. The exhibit, curated by Takahiro Kitamura, will showcase works of over 30 of the world's leading contemporary tattoo artists. It will be on view from March 8 to September 14, 2014 at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles, and will include a number of special events.  

I asked Takahiro (Taki) about his experience curating "Perseverance" and his goals for the show. Here's what he said:

This is my first time curating an exhibit at a national museum, and with all the talented artists around, the selection of artists was very difficult. I had decided that I wanted to focus more on younger artists, even some that people may not be as familiar with, in order to show what the current generation is doing and how Japanese tattooing has both evolved and stayed the same. I am excited to show such a variety of regional styles from Yokohama to Tokyo to Osaka (of course!) to LA! There are magical things happening in the world of tattoo and I hope to exhibit some of the best modern Japanese tattoo work. Thankfully, Kip Fulbeck, the exhibition designer, has had amazing ideas on presentation - what would an art exhibit be without great presentation?

We have also put a lot of energy into insuring that people who are interested can learn something about Japanese tattooing, especially in the catalog (200 pages, full color) we have put together for the show. The show covers a lot of ground and involves a lot of people. I was honored that graffiti legend Chaz Bojorquez wrote out the "Perseverance" lettering and will also speak at the opening. It is also amazing to have a talk and personal historical account from Japanese tattoo legend Junii Salmon. I am also very proud to present Chris "Horishiki" Brand's 108 Heroes of Los Angeles, a modern take on the warriors of the Suikoden. And we have a great "kite" project, but I want to wait and let people see that for themselves!

I want people who have not been exposed to Japanese tattoos to be see the sublime artistry involved in contemporary Japanese tattooing. Following the visual impact, I hope people can see that the Japanese tattoo is far more than an art form, but a cultural that represents the folklore, history and culture of Japan. We are most proud of the photographs (some of which are life size!) and hope people can appreciate and understand the time and dedication on the part of the tattoo artists and their clients.
Read more on the museum's exhibit page and on the Perseverance Facebook page.

Japanese tattoo 2.jpgTattoo above by Horitomo.
09:12 AM
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Tattoos and food. If you add Beyonce into the mix, then you have my perfect trifecta of awesome. And it seems I'm not alone (except the Beyonce part), considering the response to our post on Chad Koeplinger's 10 Best Meals of 2013; so I wanted to share another great blog for those who hunger for the culinary and tattoo arts in one lovely bite.

Knives & Needles is the online home where "Where Chefs can talk tattoos and Tattooers can talk food." Written by Molly Kitamura (speaking of lovely!), the blog includes interviews with tattooed chefs (including photos of their artwork), favorite recipes of tattoo artists, and food tattoos featured on "Tattoo Tuesday." There are also cooking tips from Molly, who's background is in holistic nutrition.

Molly offered more on what inspired the blog on Tattoo Artist Magazine:

This is a blog that I started because I have a passion for food and a love for tattoos. I am a professional sushi chef of over 13 years and have worked all over the world for more than a decade. Over my travels working in various kitchens, I always noticed how many chefs are tattooed. Not only tattooed, but many heavily tattooed. I myself am pretty heavily tattooed. Not to get too deep but this has always interested me and I think that chefs and tattooers have similar personality types; artistic, transient punks who are traditionally the lowlifes of society working in a thankless profession. Tattooing and the chef profession have both seen a 180 to their popularity and reputation in recent years with TV shows and celebrity stars being formed in this modern-day atmosphere. I want to give all those tattooed chefs the chance talk about something other than food and give foodie tattooers a chance to talk about something other than their work with this blog!
Molly's husband is renowned tattooer Takahiro Kitamura of State of Grace, so you'll see Taki making appearances on the blog and on its yummy Instagram page.

Check it for food as well as tattoo inspiration.

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12:28 PM
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Photos by John Agcaoili.

The latest issue of Skin & Ink magazine (July 2011), on newsstands now, features my profile on the multi-talented Takahiro Kitamura, aka Horitaka, tattooist and owner of State of Grace Tattoo and State of Grace Publishing in San Jose, CA. Born in Japan but raised in California since the age of two, Horitaka has worked tirelessly to educate and promote Japanese tattoo culture worldwide. In our interview, Horitaka explains what led him on this path. Here's a taste from the article:

"I always had my heart set on getting a backpiece from Horiyoshi III of Yokohama, whose work I found through the Tattoo Time books. Even then, when I had an extremely untrained eye, I knew that this guy was the best. Something spoke to me. But I thought, I can't go there. I can't afford it. A bunch of can'ts. One day-this was around early 1998-I'm making tattoo needles with Jason Kundell and he says, 'Why don't you just call him? The worst thing he can do is hang up on you.' So I got up the nerve and called the number."

That call changed Horitaka's life. Horiyoshi was intrigued by the young American tattooist-and his strange Japanese accent-and told Horitaka, "Write me a letter." He did and Horiyoshi agreed to take him on as a client. When the time for his appointment had come, Horitaka flew to Japan nervous, not knowing what to expect. Horiyoshi's old place was the second floor story of an old house without any sign or even building number. When Horitaka finally found it and walked up the rusted staircase into the studio, there was Horiyoshi with died and permed red hair. It wasn't what he was expecting of a revered tattoo master. When Horiyoshi showed him the sketch of the backpiece, Horitaka was further taken aback. "It was strictly ballpoint pen. I still have it. He took this scribble, blew it up and made a stencil of it. When you see how intricate my back is, you won't believe it. All the intricate patterns were freehand-needle to skin freehand."

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During the time he was getting tattooed, Horitaka developed a relationship with Horiyoshi. He would help translate letters sent by fans around the world. He was also encouraged to come to the shop outside of his appointment times and copy the drawings Horiyoshi set out for him. Most important, he intently observed everything that went on around him. "I was amped and inspired. The code, the way people act. Every romantic notion of that Samurai spirit of honor and tattooing all came alive right there." He adds, "Of course I was naive about certain elements, like what types of customers were coming in. In the beginning Horiyoshi said, 'Yeah, I've tattooed some Yakuza [Japanese crime families] but mostly carpenters and laborers.' And I'm thinking, carpenters and laborers don't wear Louis Vuitton. And then little by little he admitted, 'Well, maybe 50% of the clients are Yakuza...well, maybe 80%.' I'm not knocking it because some of those guys were the most polite, respectful clients and seeing that respect was amazing."

Eventually, Horiyoshi formally took him on as an apprentice and gave him the name "Horitaka." "People have asked me: 'How did you score an apprenticeship with Horiyoshi III?' I tell them that I didn't ask for it. It just happened. In any relationship, whether it be man and woman, or master and apprentice, there's going to be some chemistry. We just clicked."

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After ten years, however, the apprenticeship came to an end. "Unfortunately, as what happens in many relationships, we started to grow apart. I found it harder and harder to be a Japanese apprentice. There is still an element of following the master's will, and I was never 100% good at that. Growing up American, I was always testing that boundary. I was always one to question authority and that doesn't really work well in the Japanese framework. Sadly, I ended up quitting as an apprentice, but I will always love and respect Horiyoshi III and will never forget all he taught me."

Read more on Horitaka in Skin & Ink's July issue, out now. Also check the State of Grace Facebook page.

On a related note:

State of Grace has donated $11,577.83 to the Red Cross through proceeds from their "Stand With Japan" tees. They hope to double that figure with a new shirt created by Horitomo, which goes on sale tomorrow. You can buy the shirt (and help with Japan's relief efforts) on    
10:13 PM
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For my LA homies, this Saturday July 31st, Known Gallery will present Bob Roberts & Bert Krak's Ladies Welcome show, which will run until August 21st.

What's particularly exciting about the show, in addition to the art on view of course, is the release of In A World of Compromise...I Don't by Bob Roberts -- the first book ever on the tattoo legend. [Read more on the book in our May post.]

Who really is Bob Roberts?

I'll have Takahiro 'Taki' Kitamura, publisher of the book (and renowned tattoo artist), tell ya:

The man, the myth, the legend: Bob Roberts. Few people have had the impact on tattooing that Bob Roberts has. His sheer artistic genius is sublime, and his biography reads the same way. For over thirty years he has been part of the vanguard of talented tattoo artists who, unbeknownst to them at the time, have pushed tattooing from a craft to an art form.

The list of artists Bob has worked alongside reads like a star-studded who's who of the tattoo artist hall of fame, of which Bob would no doubt be a member if such a thing existed. He apprenticed with Colonel Todd and Bob Shaw at the infamous Pike and then worked alongside Cliff Raven, Greg Irons, Paul Rogers, Jack Rudy and Don Ed Hardy. His own shop, Spotlight Tattoo, continues to house a roster of talented artists bent on following in Bob's footsteps.

Bob's creative genius is not limited to tattooing and painting, he is also an accomplished musician. His musical career reads much the same as his tattoo resume. Bob has played with Ruben and the Jets, Hot Tuna, The Offs, New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, to name a few. His life has been 'rock and roll' as well; Frisco, New York, LA, Europe, Japan, Bob has done the world tour.

He's also ridden across most of the United States on a Harley, and he's 'ridden it like he stole it.' That is how Bob lives his life, and his artwork reflects it.
But the thing that stands out the most to me about Bob is his persona. Ungovernable, fiercely independent, Bob does not compromise.... He does it HIS way. And thankfully for us, Bob Roberts has forever changed tattooing for the better.

It's guaranteed to be an exciting book. If you can't make it to the show, you can pre-order it here for $320 (US). The books, signed and numbered, will be shipped in mid-August.
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