Tattoos, much like graffiti, have recently garnered much attention from both the mainstream and academia. Deeper and wider has the river of ink become since the days of Popeye flexing his anchors. Ink no longer marks an individual as a member of some cabal organization. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if the size and amount of color was related to the art forms’ climb up the social ladder. A lawyer, doctor, artist, or barista can be found with decorations grafted onto their body. Skin coverage nowadays rivals that of the ukiyo-e.
The intensity of skill demonstrated in Celebrated Skin, currently showing at the DAC, recalls the reverence of illuminated manuscripts. The bearers proudly demonstrate their body modifications. The tattooists’ fine skills are beautifully represented and the photographs are professionally displayed. This respectful and admiring presentation of the work help reveal the beauty of the art form. The negative associations with outlaws and battle-hardened veterans of yesteryears melts away as these markings become more personal and jubilant visual communications. Even the rock-n-roll persona does not command attention. Instead, the meeting of the artist and the bearer becomes the driving force of the show.
The shared love for the image and the skill of the artist empower the icons in each sitting. Stories evolve from both the image and the history of the tattoo itself. The photographs describe this. The line work and the vibrant colors shimmer with life.
I stopped here not happy with what was coming out. So I started over and that’s what was published. I want to write a longer review, but I’m working on other things so I can’t. I do want to highlight my perception of tattoos becoming mainstream similar to how graffiti is being coopted. Barristas and biker dudes may display them the proudest, but in every walk of life you can find someone with ink. What was considered a “lifestyle” is now a “market” and products are being targeted as such [via].
The overabundance makes it difficult to accept them as “Art” yet, the curator’s convincing visual essay is such a quality presentation that I forget all of the ex-girlfriends-names-on-your-neck tattoos. This easily could have been a crappy show with mediocre (or worse) tattoos trying to show off a stereotypical view of the tattooing world. Having the best works already singled out makes it easier to discuss the history and contemporary issues.
Good art with good presentation and good curating makes a GREAT show.
I’ll tell you ’bout what I sees.