Max Snow, photo. Courtesy of Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts.
When the designs are chosen with care, tattoos have a power and magic all their own. They decorate the body but they also enhance the soul. ~Michelle Delio
Tattoo art has been clasped to the bosom of the art world precisely because of its intercession between the arenas of popular and high culture. The symbolism and impact of tattoos varies in different places and cultures. Anglicized from the Polynesian tatau and Tahitian tatu, tattoos have served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, amulets and talismans, protection, and as the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts.
The iconic imagery of the tattoo subculture is easily accessible to even the most casual viewer, with its own distinct formal tradition and compositional canon. Plumes of smoke turn into devils and grinning skulls cover the bodies like a Gothic cornucopia; organic forms spiral abstractly over and around human limbs; pin-up girls and angels alike wink coyly from biceps; names and faces of the dead stretch and fold as skin ages and sags.
When the imagery of the tattoo is isolated from the human canvas, or when the “tattooed” becomes the subject of art, the ink can become a distinct portrait of the subject, revealing histories, ethnicities, personality quirks, fetishes, addictions, conquests, allegiances, and tragedy. This show presents the tattoo and the tattooed within the realm of fine art, providing a vivid and expansive portrait of the culture of the tattoo.
The exhibition will include works by Max Snow, Tom of Finland, Alix Lambert, Patrick Lee, Lina Bertucci, Richard Renaldi, Larry Clark, Aaron Cobbett, Assume Vivid Astro-Focus, Dr. Lakra, Scott Campbell, Herbert Hoffman, Danny Lyon, Marilyn Minter, Richard Kern, Judy Linn, Ted Nemeth, Mark Chamberlain, Liu Liguo, Ron Athey, Kiki Smith.