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After a video monitor screening interviews with LA tattoo artists and collectors, the exhibit then transitioned into a brief tattoo-technology section. The next section started the confused mix of work that would characterize the rest of 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). Another missed opportunity would have been to draw out the connections between Jill Jordan--one of the early female pioneers in contemporary tattooing--and Roberts. Given that the exhibit already had problems with coherence, the inclusion in the final section of artwork by non-tattoo artists who paint portraits of tattooed people (Sean Cheetham and Kevin Llewellyn) really caused me quite a bit of consternation.
AboutJesse Smith did his first tattoo in March of '98 and is known for his quirky, colorful, illustrative based art.
We all know there are a bunch of sexy things hidden among the innocence of Disney's famed animation canon. The beast from "Beauty and The Beast" makes an appearance in the sultan's gratuitous stack of toys. The press-release promised "tattoo equipment" which would make one assume there would be a sizeable selection. 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.
The odd location, disrupting the flow of art work mid-way through the exhibition, seemed random--why not place it at the end or the beginning of the show? Instead, the exhibit put the burden on the viewer to read all the tiny didactic text to understand, for example, that Bob Roberts had apprenticed with Bob Shaw, Cliff Raven, and Ed Hardy (all of whose work was on display in the preceding room, so visually comparisons were not easily made).
Jordan apprenticed under Bob Roberts and this clearly influenced her style--but this isn't even mentioned in her biographical label. First, the portraits focus on the people as subjects--as all portraits should--not particularly their tattoos. I wouldn't travel just to see this show, but for the price of a glass of wine or a couple of fancy coffees, you will see some great pieces.
Front row, l to r: Contestant Sebastian Murphy, Steven "Kay Kutta" Givens, Nick D'Angelo, Sarah Miller, "Little Mike" (black t-shirt with photo), Katherine "Tatu Baby" Flores, Jesse Smith and Steve Teft. He has won numerous awards for his tattoo work and has been featured in almost every tattoo publication out there. Anna Felicity Friedman, who offers this insightful review of the exhibition -- and a bit of a tattoo history lesson. 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. Across from them, tagged as "Japanese," hung Sailor Jerry flash and some contemporary fine-art pieces by Ed Hardy. The interactive also didn't function that well (although it might have rendered better on someone who was not sleeved--the projections were somewhat more legible on my untattooed hands). Also the choice to feature four giant contemporary drawings as the primary focus of Roberts's section in the exhibit (his flash was relegated to a small corner wall) confused me again as to the exhibit's purported focus. Just having her work on a wall across the gallery from his does not make such a connection at all obvious.
Second, one of the two didn't even seem to have any particular connection to the Los Angeles area, or at least the museum didn't reveal this connection in the didactic label. My favorite item--a 1977 enormous (at least 4' x 6') collaborative piece of flash by Charlie Cartwright and Jack Rudy (below) that apparently has never been on display outside of the tattoo shop, made the trip completely worthwhile for me.
He is currently tattooing at Loose Screw Tattoo in Richmond, Virginia's very own Carytown and although he is no longer taking on any new clients, he is always taking submissions for future clients. 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.


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.
I know that people have come to expect interactives in museum exhibits nowadays, but if they just end up seeming gimmicky, why include them? Granted, these spectacular artworks floored me--but once more I was left wondering what the exhibit was supposed to be about: LA tattoo history or art by LA-connected tattooers?
Although, from the information on the exhibit label, I guess this piece usually hangs in the Anaheim shop, and I could have seen it there for free. If you are interested in possibly getting tattooed by him one day, you can do so via the contact section. Where was Kari Barba, for example?) Similarly with respect to the wealth of documentation of black and gray tattooing in the exhibit, no clear sense of the history of interrelationships could be gleaned from just looking at the images. But museum display does invite a different type of looking--a deeper type, perhaps--that does not necessarily happen in a shop setting, at an art opening, or at a convention where we usually have the opportunity to see flash, photos of tattoos, and artwork inspired by tattoos.
Anna Felicity FriedmanAs 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. As someone who used to work as a curator for many years, I know well that only the most dedicated museum-goers will read the didactic text.
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. Many of the symbols are traditional but sometimes they will also incorporate modernised patterns in to them. Some people will let tattooists do tribal designs off the cuff or rather without any kind of tracing involved and just let the tattooist do their thing, this can lead to some beautiful unique designs.Leg pieceTraditional Maori warriors would often be covered head to toe in tribal tattoos. 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. This may include a broader scope of elements such as different colors and cultural symbols.Unfinished pieceA little light thrown on the Maori culture will help you understand the significance and symbolism of these tattoo designs. Both the men and women in the tribe would get tattooed and not merely for the look of it but for different purposes.
As such, the Maori tradition and method has been documented as one of the oldest techniques in the world.
This has created millions of cultural tribal designs that are still utilized today.Tribal nose tattooUnfortunately a lot of people will associate face tattoos with the person been a gang member of some kind. In actual fact having your whole face tattooed has deep meaning and significance in Maori culture.Female back tattooHere is a good example of modernised tribal tattoo that goes across a females back.
Most of the symbols will represent something even if a lot of people simply pick them because they look cool these days. In ancient culture, these cultures started when a person entered young adulthood and at various milestones in their adulthood.
Tattooing was part of their ritual and depicted the individual status and achievements about the person. Sometimes a number of small components would compose a larger design.Rib tattooBecause of the bold black nature of Maori style tattoos it also means that they last a lot longer than more intricate tattoos that have a lot of fine line work in them. Many Maori tattoos will still be as black as the day people got them 10 years on with proper care.Red and black designAs mentioned previously the traditional colour for Maori tribal tattoos is black ink. For example men would traditionally get tattoos on their legs, buttocks and face – while women would often get tattoos on their lips, neck, chin and back. The process of tattooing and the whole ritual was almost a part of their lives and culture and as essential as the basic necessities of life.Leg tribalHere is a great example of a fresh looking thigh piece.
You can see just how many different elements and shapes there are going on that all work together to form one big piece.


One of the cool things with tribal tattoo designs, is that you can start off small and keep adding to the design later on in life.Shoulder cog pieceThis is a modern take on the tribal design where you can see the person has opted for some cool cog style piece as the main part and then some very bold black work that forms and intricate flower shape below.
Thick black designs like this will look good for a life time and if you ever get bored of it you can always add colour in later on.Half completeThe turtle is quite a common element in tribal tattoos from all over the world. Turtles are considered wise and long living creatures that are able to both walk on land and swim in the sea. They also have a great defensive mechanism and as such represent or symbolise strong people.Nowadays, most Maori tattoos are done on the arms and usually as sleeves.
Though people opt for Maori tribal designs, they tend to stay away from traditional designs that can be more painful due to the detail. The design is complex and has so many different aspects that it’s easy to get lost in. People who are familiar with Maori tribal tattoos will be able to read the story of the design as if it were a book in some cases.Left chest pieceAnother example of a cool tribal chest tattoo. The thing is that what the tattoo design actually means could be different from the symbolism that it holds to you. Apart from researching the actual design and the color scheme you do need to understand all the ramifications of a Maori design for your tattoo. It means they will easily be able to cover the tattoo design, should they want to with a long sleeve shirt or similar.
Whilst most people are accepting of tattoos these days there are still some work places and cultures that will not be so accepting of your choice to tattoo yourself.Bold leg designWhen it comes to tattooing, often thick black tattoo bands will symbolise someone important in your life that passed away and is your way of remembering them.
We really like how this person has worked with the whole band theme and has a lot of them running around their leg.Epic tribal back pieceThe majority of the elements and patterns that make up this tattoo are all very traditional ones. This tattoo could even tell the story of generations of the persons family members and their ties to early Maori tribes. This is a great way of showing off your tribal heritage and what better place to do a large tattoo than all across your back.Half sleeveThis is a very modernised version of a tribal tattoo. Whilst it does still have the thick black line work that a lot of tribal tattoos do, it also has very new age elements, such as a person with DJ headphones on at the top of it. This most likely represents their love of electronic music and it is not uncommon for people to travel all around the globe and add different portions of a tattoo so that the tattoo is a hybrid of many different cultural symbols from all around the globe.More often than not tribal tattoos this big will be done in two or more sittings. The first sitting is where you will get the outline of the tattoo drawn up and then in the second sitting you will get the filler or colouring in done. The reason for this is because colouring in large areas in black can take a long time and because of this the skin starts to get quite irritated and the tattoo process can start to get painful on tender areas of skin after a while. Not to mention that the tattooists hands and body can also become sore after long periods of tattooing.Hopefully some of the tribal designs above have given you some ideas for your own design. Most importantly make sure that once you do pick a tattoo you want, that you take proper after care of the tattoo with necessary creams so that you can have the tattoos color not fade and last as long as possible. You tell people to do their research when getting tattoos, but you can’t even use research actual Maori tattoos. Reply Local Boy They may not be all Maori, but the author did state the following, “Many artists have come up with their variations, with the help of their customers, of Maori tattoos – giving some interesting twists to the basic design concept. Reply bosslady The first tattoo is clearly a Tongan design with no hint of maori design anywhere this should have been obvious considering it has the Tongan flag. Reply Devon Having spent time in New Zealand learning about Maori culture, I find it odd when I meet people with tribal tattoos and they have no understanding of the meaning or it’s origin. But since I’m from California, I have no idea where to begin finding the proper research on Maori tattoos.



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