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."
No Pain, No Gain (Portrait of the artist Jeffrey Lutz), Sergio Sanchez, oil on linen, 2011.
For my West Coast homies, this Saturday, September 29 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m is the public opening reception of L.A. Skin & Ink at the The Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. The show "explores the unique role of Los Angeles in the Tattoo Renaissance over the last 60 years. The exhibition will move through the transformation of tattooing from its traditional base of military and outlaw cultures into an art form of great distinction and adoption into contemporary culture."
It's a serious show displaying the work and artifacts of tattoo legends who have passed as well as today's art stars, including Bert Grimm, Bob Shaw, Don Ed Hardy, Cliff Raven, Jill Jordan, Leo Zulueta, Jack Rudy, Charlie Cartwright, Estevan Oriol, Mr. Cartoon, Edgar Hoill, Lucky Bastard, Zulu, Carlos Torres, Sergio Sanchez, Shawn Barber, Camila Rocha, Sean Cheetham, and more.
L.A. Skin & Ink runs from September 30, 2012 to January 6, 2013, and during this time there will be talks and special programs associated with the exhibit, including Zulu Lounge Night on November 10th. Check CAFAM's Facebook page for more info.
For tomorrow's opening party, anyone who shows their tattoo at the admission desk gets in for free. The museum is also free on the first Wednesday of every month. Otherwise, it's regularly $7 for adults; $5 for students, seniors, and veterans; and free for CAFAM members. It's hours are Tuesday - Friday, 11am - 5pm; Saturday/Sunday, 12pm - 6 pm; and closed Mondays.
The Craft and Folk Art Museum is located at 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. You can't miss it with the new window display created for the show by Norm Will Rise.
UPDATE: We've added a Q&A with Vincent on the show and new photos, below.
Tattooer and fine artist Vincent Castiglia -- known for his surreal works painted in his own blood -- has shown in galleries and museums around the world, including a solo show at the famed H.R. Giger Museum Gallery in Switzerland. From Thursday, October 4th through the 31st, his biggest show will be on view at Sacred Gallery in NYC, entitled "Resurrection."
The new retrospective art exhibition includes around 30 works spanning the last decade, from the beginning of his career to today, and seeks to "examine the congruency of life and death." For example, in "Stings of the Lash" (88" x 59", Blood, 2005) shown below Vincent says the work addresses "the unique nature of the human will," adding: "The figure stands between two neurons attempting to communicate; only the message is diffused in the space between them by this willful phenomenon. Behind him are three dimensions, which the figure penetrates, physically as well as allegorically, the terrestrial, the celestial, and beyond this the collective unconscious."
Here's a Q&A I did with Vincent on the show:
This is an impressively large show, starting from the beginning of your career to today. How has your work evolved over the past ten years -- will the viewers be able to see any progression from the earlier works to the new paintings you are showing?
It's my biggest exhibition to date in terms of the amount of works. And yes, there's a very apparent progression in technique from the beginning through present. I initially began working in this medium very painterly, and somewhat suggestive, I'd say with the first 2-3 paintings in this medium. And from there just fell in love, and aimed to take it as far it as it would go in terms of technicality and polish. I'm not sure if I'd consider even the first few paintings experimental, but more a natural evolution of possibility.
Is there a common theme that runs through all of them?
Yes, several I believe; the congruency of life and death, universal stations of the human condition (that most people don't care to face), polarity and the harmonizing of polarities, dissection, decay, rebirth, struggle and tragedy, perseverance and hope.
I'm sure you've answered tons of questions about working with your blood. But for those new to your work, perhaps you can describe the process of creating the paintings with your blood, and why it is an important medium for you.
Because my work is literally part of me. I'm being brutally honest with each painting, in many cases sharing harsh realities that I've struggled with, some even being an "exorcism" of sorts. There's a very literal transference of energy I feel in working this way. Some pray, I paint.
Anything else you'd like to add.
"Resurrection" is a unique opportunity to see this many originals of mine in one place, even for me. In addition, my first sculptural work (created this year) will be in the exhibit. I'm very happy to be showing this collection in my hometown of New York City, and at Sacred Gallery.
For more on "Resurrection," check Sacred's exhibit page.
Hope to see you at the opening reception on October 4th from 8PM - 11 PM. Sacred Gallery NYC is located at 424 Broadway (2nd Floor) between Canal and Howard in SoHo.
"Stings of The Lash", 88" x 59" (framed), 2006, blood on paper.
Tattoo by Vincent Castiglia.
In the past decade, we've seen an explosion of fine art by tattooists in galleries and museums, and it's been quite an exciting movement in the industry; however, there seems to be a lack of progress when it comes to representing the work of women tattooists in many of these shows.
Giving a platform for these women from around the world is the Ladies, Ladies Art show at Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn, NY opening next Thursday, May 17th from 7-11PM.
This exhibit, curated by Elvia Iannaccone Gezlev (Miss Elvia), Emma Griffiths and Magie Serpica, is in its second year and promises to be just as phenomenal as the first, with the work of nearly 100 female tattoo artists featured. The first show was primarily a salute to the modern godmothers of tattoo including Madame Vyvyn Lazonga, Pat Sinatra, Debbie Lenz and Juli Moon, who were all in attendance. For this show, the focus is largely on the next generation of women artists, largely from NYC but hailing from all over the country and around the world. Check their site for the list of talent. Here's more from the curators:
We can't help but notice the growing number of amazing women who choose to pursue the art of tattooing in its finest forms, as a job and as a lifestyle -- a craft that was only reserved to men until a few decades ago. A real revolution of the arts is happening! This is a chance to celebrate the female presence and spirit in tattooing, from the masters who paved the way to the established professionals who set the trends and to the talents of tomorrow. Enjoy, support and buy a piece of original art!For a preview of the art on display, see the Ladies, Ladies Facebook photo gallery.
Next Thursday's opening is sure to bring tons of people, especially as it's the night before the NYC Tattoo Convention and many tattooists are in town, so it's probably best to get there early. If you can't make it Thursday, the exhibit will be up for two months at Tattoo Culture.
Hope to see y'all there!
UPDATE: Just learned that Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand will be at the opening, showing a special historic tribute to the women tattooers of the past and onward. Another reason to head over there!
Art by Claudia DeSabe
Art by Miss Elvia
Art by Karin Schwaiger
As a follow up to our mention of tattoo anthropologist Dr. Lars Krutak in the earlier post, I wanted to let you know that Sacred Gallery in NYC is hosting the photographic exhibit Shamanic Skin: The Art of Magical Tattooing, which features thirty selected works from Lars' portfolio. The opening is Saturday, February 4th from 7 to 10PM and runs until February 29th.Here's more:
In 1777, the word 'tattoo' was defined as 'an indelible mark or figure fixed upon the body by insertion of pigment under the skin or by the production of scars.' For thousands of years before that date, however, indigenous peoples practiced various forms of tattooing and scarification not only to beautify themselves or mark significant life achievements, but also to please or seek protection from particular spirits which inhabited their world.For a copy of the show catalog, email Kevin@SacredGalleryNYC.com. Lars' books "The Tattooing Arts of Tribal Women" (2007) and "Kalinga Tattoo: Ancient and Modern Expressions of the Tribal" (2010) will be available for signing at the opening as well.
Sacred Gallery is located at 424 Broadway 2nd Fl (between Canal and Howard) in NYC.
"Dermobot" by Chris Conte.
Today on Wired's Underwired blog, Hugh Hart shares some images and information on the Mobilis in Mobili: An Exhibition of Steampunk Art & Appliance show at Wooster Street Social Club (yup, NY Ink headquarters). The exhibit runs through Jan. 14 and the work, like those shown here, are available for purchase.
Bruce Rosenbaum, "steampunk evangelist" offers more on the show:
Mobilis in Mobili: features work from artists whose work fuses Victorian aesthetics and craftsmanship with salvaged vintage components combined with modern devices to create unique works of art. It showcases the spectrum of Steampunk art and appliance from drawings to entertainment systems. These pieces take an innovative approach, transporting visitors through time, yet maintain a firm hold on contemporary contours and comforts.I'm particularly attracted the piece above by Chris Conte entitled "Dermobot (Skin Crawler)," which features a functional mini-tattoo machine. And I know Brian Grosz is loving the work shown below, "The Grand Experiment," by Steve Brock. As noted in the Wired blog, it's "a 1964 Norma guitar with turn-of-the-century noodle-cutter handle and solid-brass door plate from Detroit's Book-Cadillac building."
Also shown on Wired is the "Steampunk 'Back' Tattoo to the Future" piece by Bruce Rosenbaum and Ken Taylor. Bruce describes the work: "I found this 1918 hand-cranked gas pump and restored it. [...] The hose that had been used to deliver the gas now swoops down and behind where the tattoo subject sits. Out of this nozzle comes a webcam so that when you sit with your back to the camera you can see this monitor attached to the gas pump and watch the work as the artist tattoos your back." I want!
The fantastical and mechanical imagery of Steampunk can often be found in tattoos. Here are some excellent examples below.
Tattoo by Stephane Chaudesaigues
Tattoo by Nick Baxter.
For more on Steampunk art & culture, check the vast number of links on its Wikipedia entry.
French born, Los Angeles based tattooist, painter and sculptor BUGS will be exhibiting a new body of work entitled Purity in Motion at Sacred Gallery in SoHo. The opening reception is 7-11PM next Thursday, May 12th -- the night before the NYC Tattoo Convention, where Bugs will also be tattooing. The show will run through May 29th.
I talked with Bugs about his upcoming exhibit in our Q&A for Inked Magazine and learned that he had just returned to sculpting, a medium he was exited to get back into. When I further asked him about it, he replied:
I'm sketching new cubic women, starting small. I'm going to make them in bronze. Near my house is a foundry that deals with a lot of artists. I think it will be interesting to see my work in 3D, to see my work freely with all the angles of my design. I don't know if it will be popular or will sell but I don't care. I do it for me.Bugs will learn soon enough how the sculpture is received with this first unveiling of the work. The sculpture will be on view along with paintings that "reflect a mix of different techniques showing images of nudes." He adds, "Also included will be other subjects close to my heart from my background in France."
If you can't make it to the show, you can appreciate his distinct cubist and modern abstract style (like the work below) in his tattoo portfolio online. Bugs works at the Tattoo Lounge in LA, Thurs-Sat, and Victory Electric Tattoo Co., in Studio City, CA on Wednesdays.
TONIGHT AT SACRED: There will be a special one-night only Benefit for Japan in which all artwork will be priced at $200 or less, and all proceeds go to the Red Cross. Prints and original drawings from a stellar line-up of artists will be available. More info here.
This Saturday, February 5th, Lowrider Arte editor and photographer Edgar Hoill will be showing his notorious street portraits and celebrating the launch of his new clothing line One Shot One Kill [OSOK] at the Smoking Mirrors Gallery in Pomona, California. And of course there will be a car show as expected of a member of the Lowrider family.
I introduced myself to Edgar two years ago at the London Tattoo Convention after seeing his series of work that focused on tattoo culture, including the photo above of Parisian tattooist Laura Satana and LA's black & grey prodigy Jesus "Chuey" Quintanar (shown below with two clients). After a couple of tequilas, we decided to collaborate on a book project, but unlike many alcohol-fueled plans, this one actually came to fruition. A year later, the Black & Grey Tattoo box set was born. [Edgar is selling his signed copies of Black & Grey Tattoo as well as prints at the event.]
See more of Edgar's photography here and visit the OSOK clothing store online here.
Smoking Mirrors Gallery
565 W. 2nd St. #5
Pomona, CA 91766
Opening from 6-11PM
I still have a limited number of my own author copies of Black & Grey Tattoo for $350. Email me at marisa [at] needlesandsins.com for more details.
It's been a while since I threw up an events post, but I'm excited about this first time art show in Staten Island -- a show that sets out to prove that the borough is home to a lot of tattoo and fine art talent, not just Jersey Shore cast members.
This Friday is Bound for Glory's 40+ artist exhibition "First Taste," curated by tattooist Maggie Serpica. The show features paintings, drawings and photography, including the image above by Mike Shane.
A portion of the proceeds from art sales will benefit the Project Hospitality charity. The opening runs from 8-11PM. Check their Facebook page for the list of artists and details.
The Wellcome Collection in London describes itself as "a free visitor destination for the incurably curious," which of course made me curious, incurably so.
Founder Sir Henry Wellcome was a pretty curious dude himself, fascinated by the intersection of medicine and health, business and marketing, philanthropy, culture and art. Wellcome collected over a million objects, including manuscripts, carvings, posters, images and a number of body art artifacts like the preserved tattooed skin above, taken off an executed criminal around 1850-1900.
From June 10th to September 26th, The Wellcome Collection presents an exhibition devoted entirely to the largest human organ. Simply entitled Skin, the exhibition delves into "the changing importance of skin, from anatomical thought in the 16th century through to contemporary artistic exploration."
The show includes image galleries, video, a Skin Lab that looks at developments in skin science (including bio-jewelry and clothing), and essays by Javier Moscoso, and by Katie Kitamura--sister to Horitaka of State of Grace and author of The Longshot: A Novel.
The tattoo portion involves a design competition where the winning artwork will be tattooed live onto Caisa Ederyd (pictured below) at the "Tattoos: Marks of meaning" event on July 22nd.
Don't Panic offers full detail on the competition and the sweet prizes for the winner. Here's just a taste to give you an idea:
"One of the aspects we are interested in is looking at peeling back the layers of skin to discover what's beneath--let your imagination run wild with the anatomical workings of your body. Organs, dissections, skeletons, guts, nerves bundles, veins--get your thinking caps on to illustrate what's beneath our skin and display the internal on the external.
They have an "Inspiration Image Gallery," which includes an exploded thorax. Cool.
As for those sweet prizes, they include £100 cash, a free tattoo by a tattooist from London's Good Times, their artwork on 60K posters, and a year's free membership of the Wellcome Collection Club.
Check out some of the entries already submitted. Good stuff. The competition closes on Friday, June 25th.
PS: Beyond the physical exhibit and competition, I suggest you check out the online library, which offers so many interesting images and info that will satisfy your curiosity of the body. I mean, bodies in general.
To get us warmed up for the NYC Tattoo Convention next weekend, Tattoo Culture will be hosting an exciting solo show featuring the painting of legendary tattoo artist BUGS on Thursday, May 13th from 7-10PM.
With his signature blend of cubism, art deco and classical art in his paintings as well as tattoos, BUGS continues break ground in melding the fine art and tattoo worlds seamlessly-- something he has done for over 25 years, from his old studio in Camden, London to his new home at the Tattoo Lounge in Los Angeles. And for a short time, you can now find him in NYC for this exhibit and the convention.
Check his site for more tattoos and paintings.
As usual, the Needles and Sins crew will be in attendance enjoying the art and also drinking as wine, beer and light snacks will be served. Hope to see you there.
Yet another tattoo-themed museum exhibition just opened in Boston: The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) presents Dr. Lakra, the first solo show of Mexican tattooist and painter Jerónimo López Ramírez, aka Dr. Lakra.
Dr. Lakra gained popularity as a tattooist in the 1990s but this popularity led to his frustration with the business of tattooing (although he still tattoos on occasion) and toward a different canvas. He tells the Boston Globe:
"People tattooing in Mexico were doing it with homemade machines. I went and got the stuff and built myself a machine, and then I didn't know exactly how to use it. It was totally different. I had to learn how to draw again with this machine.
His paintings, however, manifest his love of tattoo imagery, as seen in the works exhibited at ICA. The show's introduction makes a particular note of this: "Referencing diverse body art traditions from Chicano, Maori, Thai, and Philippine cultures, Dr. Lakra layers spiders, skulls, crosses, serpents, and devils over these existing images." The existing images they refer to are vintage prints of pin-up girls, luchadores,1940s Mexican businessmen, and Japanese sumo wrestlers. The predominant themes throughout the work: sex and death.
In describing the exhibit's commissioned wall mural, the Globe says it is "the raunchiest imagery...from which parents may wish to shield young children." They add:
"[the mural] oozes impish devils, drawings of brains, and other internal organs, vampires, piles of dung, tribal totems, and ugly-looking deep sea creatures. It makes absolutely no sense, and it's rather wonderful.
To which I say, yeah oozing imps and phalluses!
Dr. Lakra is on view at ICA until September 6th. Check the online preview of the show; you can also listen to audio commentary on the works here. The show is sponsored by Converse, which made this video below on the artist's inspirations and process [via Highsnobiety.com]
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has an exciting new exhibit on view until January: Under the Skin: Tattoos in Japanese Prints. Here's a bit about the show:
"Tattooing became an important feature of Japanese urban popular culture in the early 19th century, influenced strongly by the success of a series of woodblock prints featuring Chinese martial arts heroes with spectacular tattoos, vividly imagined by the artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Tattoo artists copied designs from the prints and invented new designs that were, in turn, depicted in later prints.
Under the Skin: Tattoos in Japanese Prints explores the social background, iconography, and visual splendor of Japanese tattoos through the prints that helped carry the art from the streets of 19th-century Japan to 21st-century tattoo shops all over the world."
The Hudson Sun applauds the show and offers further background (and highlights) on the prints, photos, manuscripts and other artifacts. One particularly interesting piece of info is this:
In doing so, the exhibit goes beyond presenting beautiful works of art over the centuries but offers context and history for the viewers.
if you can't make it to Boston, MFA offers on online tour of Under the Skin here. A must see.
And for those in NYC, the Japan Society also has an exhibit on Japanese prints:
Graphic Heroes, Magic Monsters: Japanese Prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
[Thanks, David, for the link!]
Painter, tattoo artist, and overall mensch Shawn Barber will be showing new paintings in his wonderful tattoo series at the Joshua Liner Gallery in Manhattan from April 24th to May 22nd.
Entitled Tattooed Portraits: Chronicle, the exhibit is Shawn's first solo show in NYC and comprises twenty paintings and eight works on paper.
I'm particularly excited about this exhibit because, well, I'm in it! [I'm particularly restraining myself from adding more exclamation marks.] In December, Shawn and Kim Saigh came over to our Brooklyn hood and photographed me in my naked tattooed glory for a portrait evoking the Hindu goddess Durga. Kim, a yogini, inspired the idea of representing Durga's ten arms with symbolic hand gestures (and wild curly hair) framing my backpiece. [See below] I loved the idea because Durga's a warrior badass with a sense of humor -- something I aspire to should I ever leave my computer. But enough about me ...
For more on the show and Shawn, check recent interviews in ChinaShop Mag and Arrested Motion. The Q&A in Arrested Motion is a great read covering everything from Shawn's first tattoo to his new studio with Kim, Memoir Tattoo, to the tattoo portraits series. Here's a taste:
My favorite painting has to be the James and Tim Kern piece, also a fave of ChinaShop Mag and highlighted in their article. ChinaShop also previews other works and offers a look into Shawn & Kim's Memoir Tattoo in LA. [For a closer look, check the Fecal Face videos.]