Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World
MARCH 8 – SEPTEMBER 14, 2014
About the Exhibition
Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World explores the artistry of traditional Japanese tattoos along with its rich history and influence on modern tattoo practices in this groundbreaking photographic exhibition.
As Japanese tattoos have moved into the mainstream, the artistry and legacy of Japanese tattooing remain both enigmatic and misunderstood. Often copied by practitioners and aficionados in the West without regard to its rich history, symbolism, or tradition, the art form is commonly reduced to a visual or exotic caricature. Conversely, mainstream Japanese culture still dismisses the subject itself as underground, associating it more with some of its clientele than with the artists practicing it. Both of these mindsets ignore the vast artistry and rich history of the practice.
Although tattooing is largely seen as an underground activity in Japan, Japanese tattoo artists have pursued their passions, applied their skills, and have risen to become internationally acclaimed artists. Through the endurance and dedication of these tattoo artists, Japanese tattooing has also persevered and is now internationally renowned for its artistry, lineage, historical symbolism, and skill.
Curated by Takahiro Kitamura and photographed and designed by Kip Fulbeck, Perseverance is a groundbreaking exhibition and the first of its kind. Perseverance will explore Japanese tattooing as an art form by acknowledging its roots in ukiyo-e prints. This exhibition will also examine current practices and offshoots of Japanese tattooing in the U.S. and Japan.
Perseverance features the work of seven internationally acclaimed tattoo artists, Horitaka, Horitomo, Chris Horishiki Brand, Miyazo, Shige, Junii, and Yokohama Horiken, along with tattoo works by selected others. Through the display of a variety of photographs, including life-sized pictures of full body tattoos, these artists will cover a broad spectrum of the current world of Japanese tattooing.
Mariko Gordon and Hugh Cosman
UCSB Academic Senate
UCSB Department of Art
The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Arts Commission
Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation
By Deb Yarian
The first thing out of my mouth when a couple says “We’ve decided to have a baby” is usually “Congratulations,” not “What happens if you get a divorce?”
I wish as many obstetricians counseled their patients against having babies using the same reasoning as some tattooers do when they advise their customers against getting a partner’s name – “What happens if you break up?”
Well, what happens if you break up is that you, having made an adult decision to show your devotion to someone by getting their name tattooed on your skin must now also make another adult decision and learn to live with it, cover it, or change it.
A ludicrous comparison, yes – but the name tattoo (a foolish choice only in retrospect) seems far less permanent when compared with the really permanent – living child.
This sort of counsel is a particular pet peeve of mine… I think that when a person, for whatever reason , wishes to commemorate their love and devotion to another person by choosing to get that person’s name tattooed on their body, then that is their adult decision and they don’t need my opinion, other than possibly font or calligraphic design choice or placement.
I’ve heard so many tattooers respond to name requests with such negativity. With mocking responses ranging from “That’s a sure way to end a relationship!” “You sure you want to do that?” To ridicule or refusal to do the name tattoo.
But why should any couple coming in to get name tattoos from me or any other tattooer have to validate anything other than their legal ability to get tattooed? Since when did the tattooer become the priest and rabbi and moral counsel of their customers?
During my 35 years of tattooing there have probably been hundreds, even thousands of tattoo designs that I have been asked to do that I, myself, would not have chosen to get. In my opinion many more ugly or foolish design choices have been made than choosing to get the name of a loved one.
I am speaking solely on my opinion of a person’s decision to get another’s name – not the aesthetics of it.
Certainly, if the aesthetics of type interferes with the look or design flow of a larger tattoo then when asked for my artistic opinion I would give my honest one. However, if asked my opinion as to whether someone should get their partner’s name – how could I answer that?
I feel that it’s only my responsibility to advise on design choice and placement and to try and do the best job that I can regardless of my opinion of someone else’s choice of what to wear on their body.
By Nick Baxter
If you’re into oil painting or realism and somehow not already a fan of Jeremy Geddes, do yourself a favor and check him out. He is a modern master of the fantastic realism genre. When I found out that he recently did an interview about his process and thoughts on realism art, I eagerly read it and found some pearls of wisdom in his humble and deftly concise responses.
Especially helpful to me as a painter were a few choice reminders about the process of completing larger or more ambitious works, including this advice:
One mistake I often catch myself in is launching into a full sized painting before I have addressed and resolved all the potential problems in small scale studies. It means I can spend days or weeks in rework for an issue that could have been sorted out in hours if I had followed the correct procedure. Tampering down enthusiasm with pragmatism can be a tricky thing to hold onto sometimes, but it is almost always worth it.
And then there’s this insight regarding the public perception of “fine art” and the communicative power, which is a timely reinforcement of some of the conclusions about modern art I described in my “What Is Art?” essay:
…the disconnect between the intended meaning of a conceptual work and the meaning that ‘Joe Public’ will take from it is obviously huge, the work is most likely buried in decades of obscure theory that the public has no knowledge of or participation in.
By Indigo del Castillo
Sculptor Jessica Harrison has forever changed how we see Victorian-era ceramic figures with her works involving ladies in fancy dresses sporting badass tattoos or their own blood and guts. In this exclusive interview, she talks more about her roots as an artist and her unique take on ceramics. [read our original posts about her sculptures here and here]
How did you discover your passion for sculpture?
When I was little I wanted to work in animation – there were quite a few great children’s tv programs on in the 80’s that were made with 3D models and I decided quite early on it looked like the best job in the world to mess around with clay all day.
Let’s talk about your grotesque ceramic ladies with severed heads and misplaced body parts. Where did you get the inspiration for this collection? What was the message you were trying to convey here?
That series is called ‘Broken’ as the pieces are made using found ceramics that I have quite literally taken a hammer and chisel to.They present an impossibly fair-skinned ‘perfect’ woman and my attraction to these works was precisely because of this image they portray of the female body – my aim was to counter it and present its opposite within itself.
This was simple to do, by breaking apart the hollow cast pieces and ‘revealing’ the interior, a standard formula in Western knowledge for making discoveries about the body. The female interior is a space still laced with taboo in a way that the male interior is not, and for me this gender bias of what is most often an invisible space in our everyday lives was a fascinating and important one to address. This series, like my other works in stone, ceramics, silicone and ink comes from exploring shared ideas about the body, unraveling shared experiences of different spaces, textures and shapes.
Do you have any memorable reactions and responses regarding the macabre ceramics?
Not really, the pieces from the ‘Broken’ series are very bland to me before I break them. I think they make more sense in their altered form.
Seeing as you’ve been into sculpture all your artistic life, how difficult was it to move into tattoo art in your series about the Victorian-era ladies with tattoos?
It wasn’t difficult as it is not something different. I’m using the tattoo in this series to explore the skin space rather than creating any tattoo art itself, which is a completely different thing. Tattooing is not a painting or a drawing onto a static plane, it is incredibly sculptural, literally threading ink into a moving surface, one that has no flat surfaces.
So although the pieces are called ‘Painted Ladies’ in reference to the old term for a tattooed woman, they in fact draw from something incredibly sculptural and active in space, the skin.
The tattoo imagery I have used is all from war-time source imagery, to recall a time before the popularity boom of the tattoo when it may be pointed more towards a particular kind of harsher life. The idea was to present opposing outer layers, contrasting skins, where masculine illustrations are intertwined with overtly over-idealized feminine costume. The viewer is presented with the question of what we are supposed to consider beautiful, which costume to believe.
How long did it take you to finish a piece?
A long time, that’s why there are only a few, and why there are unlikely to be any more!
Do you have anything you’re currently working on that we should look out for?
I have an exhibition opening at Jupiter Artland in Edinburgh this July. It’s going to be very pink…
Tattoos by Victor Policheri
Heidi Hay Tattoo
Photo and Caption by Michal Duchek
A fascinating culture of the Igorot people brought me and my girlfriend to Kalinga. Head-hunting ceased decades ago, however, the motifs of Kalinga tattoos and the way they are being tattoed remains the same (charcoal and an orange thorn). We decided to visit this beautiful tribeswoman who is the last Kalinga tattoo artist. After a few days, long hours spent on buses and jeepneys, we were lucky to find a local guide Francis who brought us to Buscalan. We were overwhelmed how hospitable and friendly she is. Her natural beauty and her tattoo tempted me to ask her for a pose outside her dwelling.
Location: Buscalan village, Kalinga, North Luzon, Philippines
A message from Kate Hellenbrand:
TODAY is the DAY!!!
PBS SPECIAL airing TONIGHT at 7:30 p.m. here in AUSTIN, Central Time~
Available on line thru their website tomorrow for the rest of the world to see.
This isn’t some crappy “reality” TV SHOW. This is a respectful overview of the real art of tattoo. It’s PBS, people!
I’ve continued to turn down “Ink Disaster” and “Tattoo Titans” and all the other crap thrown at me that is made up and disrespectful to my glorious art/craft. Thankfully, I held out. I am proud. And even though haters will pick it apart, I say: SUCK IT!
I am almost excited enough to buy a TV (which I don’t have) and subscribe to cable (which I won’t do) so gratefully I’m going to watch at Chris Kirkpatrick’s home with his lovely wife Christine. He’s the client
getting the girl with the cobra that you’ll see.
LEMME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK
My favorite style tends to be illustrated realism, not even sure if that’s an actual style haha.
Donate to Rick Lee Peters and his family as he continues his fight against Cancer. Please help provide him peace of mind in his final days.
Rick Lee Peters received his Masters of Fine Arts with Honors from The University of Kansas. But who needs a fancy piece of paper to notice the true talents of this man. One peek at his repertoire is a clear display of a truly wonderful, creative and talented man who our Universe is preparing to take away due to Cancer.
He began his battle about a year ago and we all had hopes that he would pull thru this routine procedure. The other side of the curtain must need some funny, bright new personalities and probably some new artwork!
As Rick prepares for a battle that his body no longer has control over, his family – his beautiful wife Jill, his son Tim and daughter Aimee, his grandchildren and a long list of loved ones and friends take comfort in being able to see and speak with Rick, and share encouraging hugs during these final days. His good humor helps everyone ease thru an extremely heartbreaking and difficult process.
Of course – with any medical battle there are costs involved. Not only the hospital and treatment bills, but cost of living expenses, final resting costs, and the stress of being able to provide for loved ones once that fateful day has come. One of Rick’s requests is to have a simple heart shaped headstone -even the most modest design is worth a mint.
Rick has provided this World with laughs, smiles, love and brightness – not only thru his amazing being but thru the beauty of his artwork. Whether you knew him in person or not – his paintings and sketches will spread a smile across your face and in your heart.
Skip the line at Starbucks and donate that $5 to someone who really matters. No amount is too small or too big. Every little bit helps. Please donate and share this fundraiser with others.
Thank you and much peace.
For donations, please visit: http://gfwd.at/1oQHJQO
A tattoo exhibition? You mean, not in the corner of a tattoo convention? In a real museum? Well, it’s for real, and it’s happening now in Paris, at the Museum du quai Branly, which is quite famous for showing high quality exhibitions, usually specialized in anthropology and ethnology. And it is now showing “Tatoueurs, tatoues” (or “tattooists, tattooed”).
Of course, having a few tattoos myself, and being both interested and a bit educated in tattoo history and techniques, I had to rush there, and report back on what this exhibit has to offer:
The exhibition was curated by Anne & Julien (who’ve been involved in the modern art scene for many years now), and advised and directed by famed French tattoo artist Tin-Tin. The goal of the exhibit, as explained by Anne & Julien, is to show how tattoo, which has existed since ancient times, has changed, developed, disappeared, and been reborn to the art we know today.
In the first part, named “from the global to the marginal,” the exhibition tells the story of tattoo throughout history, and society. You can view a mummified tattooed arm from Peru, antique tools, and amazing portraits of Algerian tattooed women. This part also explores the role of tattoos in the navy, and in prisons with, among other things, a short movie that I highly recommend: “La peau du milieu” (1957), showing the “underground” side of tattoo, at a time when the meaning was much more important than the style, which was, well, rather poor.
Then, you enter the marginal and colorful world of sideshow, circus, freaks, and…traveling tattoo artists. As a transition, there’s a very interesting “Wall of Fame,” displaying a timeline of tattoo culture, including laws, techniques, famous tattoo artists, and famous tattooed people.
The exhibition goes on with a focus on tattoo in Japan, North America, and Europe. The Japanese selection shows some stunning paintings, tattoo projects, photos of tattooed people, videos, a photo of a tattooed skin taken from a dead man (gulp! I first didn’t notice it was only a photo); other incredible artifacts include a kabuki costume painted so that it looked like a tattoo when worn by the actor. In the North America and European selections, there were more photos and prints of tattooed people, and interestingly, a copy of Samuel O’Reilly’s patent for his tattooing machine (and some modern day machines as well).
Moving through the exhibit, at this stage, museum goers now view works made by tattoo artists exclusively for this exhibition: 19 artists worked on “tattoo project” paintings, and 13 artists tattooed silicon body parts to great effect.
There’s also an exploration into the revival of traditional tattoo in Oceania and South-East Asia, displaying some impressive masks and head sculptures (I was especially impressed by those), traditional tools, as well as modern tattoo projects. There’s further cultural discussion of tattoo in China, the Latino and Chicano cultures in the US, among others.
At last, the exhibition ends with the “new generation” of artists, such as Yann Black and the “Art Brut” movement in tattooing, as a nod to the future of the art.
To read the rest of this article, go to: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/05/tatoueurs-tatoues-musee-du-quai-branly.html
Tattoos by Hanumantra Lamar
Modern Body Art, Birmingham
By Nick Baxter
Last year I started collecting my thoughts on the continual debate in my head about what art is, and how it can be (among other things) an effective form of communication. That effort was and still is intertwined with the process of further understanding my own art, and all other art, as well. In hindsight, I thought the initial writing (here and here) was a bit unfocused, and since it was also incomplete, I took the time recently to revisit those blog entries and rework them into a more cohesive essay.
The final part of that essay, as mentioned in the second of those prior blog posts, is about my belief that photojournalism can be viewed as a creative art form, possessing an almost-accidental form of raw beauty capable of inspiring other works of art (such as many of my own). This critique of photojournalism introduces broader questions about the “unintended” as art, and–for now–completes my investigation into the sneakily complicated debate “What is art?”
In the future I’ll post the final version of the essay in its entirety, but for now here is the “part 2″ continuation of those prior blog posts.
Photojournalism and the Unintended as Art
In the last 100 years, photojournalism has become a fixture of our visual landscape. On the surface, it’s simply defined as the use of images to tell a news story or to report on current events. In this role, the photos are not art, and their photographers are not acting as artists, which means their images are typically held to strict ethical standards of honesty, impartiality, and objectivity. But these attributes are graded on a scale that becomes increasingly inexact amidst the complexity of postmodern thought and the digital age of endless reproduction and re-appropriation. This is the point at which the question “What is art?” becomes relevant and fascinating to me, when applied to the medium of photojournalism.
I’ve always appreciated the naïve purity of an image that’s been produced with no pretense of art, utterly uninhibited by the finicky shackles of artistic rules or the whims of unreliable muses like inspiration. In this open and wild space, artistic qualities and natural beauty are given the chance to emerge on their own, unintended and raw, like the strongest of weeds in a perfectly manicured lawn, and photography seems to be an ideal medium for this phenomenon. This element of chance can produce quite powerful images, capable of communicating intensely to the viewer while remaining—and precisely because they remain—firmly grounded in the truth of reality “as it happened.”
And so the commonplace photos we’re bombarded with through ever-increasing media saturation begin ostensibly as visual data comprised only of ‘facts’ or neutral information, yet end up loaded with symbolism, embedded with the perceptions and beliefs of their creators and audience after becoming the subject of this artistic line of inquiry.
In studying art history, it seems this afterlife of the journalistic image became much more possible in the wake of the Dada movement, when artists (including photographers) carved out new niches for their work beyond mere decoration or commemoration of important people or places. Art in the 20th century became increasingly deconstructivist, philosophically charged, and conceptual in nature, filling multiple roles while having its meaning manipulated by the increasingly complex worldviews of both creator and audience1.
Because of this evolution, just about anything could be considered art in the right context, meaning that most contemporary art now resides as much in the blurry, ambiguous realm of provocative ideas as it does in the realm of traditional craft. Hence a museum visitor might encounter an exhibit of random paint splotches that, beneath its completely underwhelming, childlike appearance, contains a metaphor referencing complex political or psychological theories learned by the artist through years of intense academic study.
This can be maddening to the viewer who simply wants to marvel at a skillfully executed object of beauty, or it can be liberating for those who want to engage in debate, controversy, or social change through the arts. My own art has always attempted to straddle this fence by incorporating the best of both worlds: technical, precise handling of paint in the realism tradition, yet depicting modern subject matter and informed by the angst and alienation of postmodern philosophies. It is my belief that photojournalism in the modern age, thanks to that 20th-century process of expansion and deconstruction, straddles a similar fence, one separating objective observations from subjective beauty and meaning.
This ability of the journalistic photograph to transcend genres is confirmed in the academic community by the fact that “Breaking News Photography” is a Pulitzer Prize category. This prestigious yearly award started in 1917 as a way to honor impactful achievements in American journalism, literature, and music. Winning photographs are resurrected as art objects, receiving appreciation for their poignancy and beauty—a second life of sorts, after their initial purpose or function in the journalistic media has been served.
This second life also takes the form of photo essays, curated and arranged into cohesive narratives, which are now commonly presented in art and lifestyle publications, fine art galleries, and museums throughout the world. Depending on the intentions of the photographer and exhibiting institution or publication, as well as the sensibilities of the viewing audience, these photographs may be appreciated for their communication about the world events that comprise their content, or for their artistic qualities—or both.
In his 1995 essay about the modern age of photojournalism, writer Richard Lacayo wades into the debate surrounding artistic subjectivity and meaning:
“Photojournalists tend to stay aloof from talk about camera aesthetics. There is something about dodging gunfire in Beirut that discourages ruminations on style, understandably enough. More to the point, no one who catalogs bloodshed or poverty wants to be thought of as yet another vendor to the senses. Some news photographers spend half their lives chasing wars; who can blame them if they reach for the door when they hear the word art? …The stereotype survives: artists have visions; journalists have assignments. They may both think to themselves, ‘I am a camera,’ but each means something different.
“Yet aesthetic questions have a moral dimension. Color is pretty; misery is not. How does one keep the simple appeal of color from confounding the full range of meanings a photograph may convey? If pictures of genocide come to us in the muted pastels of a GAP ad or the vivid hues of a rock video, how does a photographer keep atrocity from looking palatable?”2
While the moralist in me sympathizes with this sentiment, the artist and rebel in me, raised in an age of cynicism, desensitization, and ambiguity, views adjectives like ‘palatable’ as mere subjective opinions, impossible to resolve into an absolute truth for all to agree on. Human culture is so diverse that practically anything could be considered palatable art, by someone. And so I answer Lacayo’s question with another question: “Why should the photographer keep atrocity from looking palatable?”
I want to ask this question not because I enjoy atrocity, but because I am capable of the postmodern complexity of holding multiple feelings and competing appreciations within me simultaneously. In this case, that multiplicity includes the horror and revulsion at the tragic events occurring in our world as well as the aesthetic delight at the spectacle of color, shape, line, emotion, symbolism, and meaning on vivid display, emerging somewhat accidentally (and perhaps with more purity) through the photojournalistic medium.
As if to concede this very point I’m making and pay homage to the “What is art?” debate, the author goes on to admit, “The most capable photojournalists…have learned to incorporate the unruliness of color into a deliberate statement. …Barbaric rule can operate in the broadest daylight, suffering can happen in sensual settings, a place can be cruel and inviting at the same time.”
And so we see that through the inescapable conduit of subjectivity, passive observation becomes intentional communication, and thus, photojournalism can also be the highest of art forms, loaded with inspiration for artists working in any medium. I’ve always appreciated the best journalistic photography for this transcendent ability, the point at which the happenings of this world become awe-inspiring images, and the deepest truths contained in the human condition are put on poetic display.
So once and for all, “What is art?” This question may never be fully answered. But with an integral approach and an open mind, artists and viewers alike can use this line of inquiry to enrich their experience of reality, to deepen the communication that is the purpose of all art, and to find beauty everywhere, even where it may be unintended.
1The Situationists of the 1960s took this evolution to the extreme, espousing radical anarchist views on art that embraced destruction and merciless re-appropriation of all imagery, in the service of transforming society and conscious reality into a powerful and playful dialogue with the present moment.
2Lacayo, Richard. “IV: Resurgence 1980-1995.” Eyewitness: 150 Years of Photojournalism. New York CIty: Time, 1995. 166. Print.
By Marisa Kakoulas
In Athens, Greece, the Sake Tattoo Crew is an incubator for top tattoo talent — not just respected in the country, but worldwide. One artist from this collective is Kiriakos Balaskas. Tattooing for 8 years after a tough apprenticeship with Sake, Kiriakos developed a style combining abstract expressionism watercolors and graphic art. But I wanted to learn from him how he views his work, and tattoo culture as a whole, so I took him away from organizing the Athens Tattoo Convention, which is May 23-25, for a quick Q&A.
If forced to define your style, how would you describe it? What are the strongest influences on your work?
My tattoo style in general has always been a combination of heavy themes/ lines/ shapes, and naive — almost childish — color details. I’ve always found this invasion of joy into strictness (two sides that equally attract me) very interesting and exciting. As soon as I started experimenting with the watercolor technique, I felt I had finally found the absolute way of expressing this ultimate combination. My pieces mainly include these distinctive elements: a black graphic stencil or sketch, and either a brush or wide, “clean,” kid-style watercolors — usually two colors only. It is hard for me to define it in a sole, strict term as there is no one else in Greece who practises this style, but if forced to define it, I’d use the term my costumers use when they ask for it, “Kiddo.”
Some old school artists believe that “only bold will hold,” and that every tattoo needs a heavy outline to stay strong longer. What is your response to this?
I agree and I myself use total black outlines in the stencil/sketch part. But as far as the watercolors outline is concerned, I feel the lines should create an ephemeral impression — if you take the loose element out of the watercolor, the very substance of it is gone.
Because you are doing something new and innovative with your work, what kind of reactions do you get to it?
The reactions are positive, if not overwhelming. People are interested in trying this new technique or inflowing the style into their tattoos, and their eagerness to experiment with unconventional styles sincerely moves me.
What are some of the greatest lessons you learned in tattooing?
I’ve learned the greatest lessons and values of tattooing from the person who initiated me to this art, Sake. It was a tough apprenticeship by his side that I had to go through in order to become a respected tattoo artist, and one of the greatest lessons he gave me was to pay this respect back to the customers. They will have that piece on them forever, and that is something we always have to keep in mind.
What do you think makes a good tattoo — and what do you think makes a good tattoo artist?
A good tattoo is a tattoo that remains the same over the years, as if it was only done two weeks ago. I consider good artists to be the artists who won’t rest or let themselves go as far as their technique, style and inspiration are concerned.
How have you seen tattoo culture in Greece evolve? How has mainstream culture in Greece adapted to the art’s popularity?
**To read the full article, go to: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/05/artist-profile-kiriakos-sake-tattoo-crew.html
Tattoos by Olaf Lobe
True Love Tattoo
Tattoos by James Mullin.
IG: @jamesmullintattoos @lotustattoohemet
Tattoos by Matt Lang
Mike Parsons Ink, Riverview, FL
Back in February of this year as a part of our ongoing professional development webinar series,
TattooNOW and Off the Map Tattoo produced and broadcast an unprecedented live streaming
internet event. A collaboration tattoo from tattoo masters Guy Aitchison and Jeff Gogue,
watched as it happened by over 6000 viewers. Matt McKelvey was the lucky recipient of this
amazing tattoo. Here is his story of the experience…
When I saw that TattooNOW was offering the opportunity to be tattooed by Jeff Gogue and Guy
Aitchison, I spent the next few days writing my submission. I treated my entry like a resume,
which was built upon the image of the Heike Crab. I first saw the unique creature and heard its
mythology on Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. My goal was to have elements where both artists could
bring their strengths, but it would be unique enough to be exciting. A few months went by, and I
was honored to find out I had been selected.
It just so happened that I ended up in the same exact hotel room that I stayed in when I started
my bodysuit. There was some pretty bad weather in Portland that weekend and after a phone
conversation with Jeff, I wasn’t sure if Guy’s plane would be landing. We decided if things fell
through, the least we could do would be to work on my existing tattoo.