The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA) opens the traveling exhibition Tattoo to Southern California from November 19, 2017 to April 15, 2018. Created and developed by the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, the NHMLA presentation of Tattoo concludes an international tour at stops including Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum and Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. Tattoo explores more than 5,000 years of history, culture, and art connected to ink through specially commissioned, tattooed silicone forms; hand-drawn art; videos of tattoo ceremonies; interview footage of luminary practitioners; and the technology and tools of the trade—all while also spotlighting the vibrant tattoo scene in L.A.
While tattooing tools may vary from artist to artist, tattooists have employed a common method: puncture the skin and deposit pigment. The exhibition explores the variety of tools used around the world and throughout the history of tattooing including knives and needles made of citrus thorns, cactus spines, and metal. Historic highlights include a 250-year-old inkpad that belonged to a family in Jerusalem who used candle soot mixed with wine to tattoo pilgrims on their journey and an electric stencil pen from Thomas Edison, which inspired the first electric tattoo machine.
The exhibition highlights the dynamic work and importance of female tattooists. A video of Jesse Knight—an Englishwoman trained to tattoo by her father and famous for her freehand ability (tattooing without pre-drawn designs)—is a part of the content. There is also work from Southern California’s Nell Bowen and Dainty Dottie—and a newly-commissioned silicone arm form tattooed by Kari Barba, a pioneering tattooist and the owner of Outer Limits Tattoo and Museum in Long Beach (the site of the longest running tattoo studio in the United States).
NHMLA’s presentation of the exhibition features an original two-part video installation on tattoo in Los Angeles. The first, on the history of tattoo at the Long Beach Pike, details the unprecedented quality and quantity of the traditional-style tattooists who congregated at the Pike in the early and mid-1900s. During that period, Long Beach boasted the largest concentration of tattoo parlors in the U.S., including Bert Grimm’s World Famous Tattoo, which was home to some of the most influential artists in the 20th century. The video also feature interviews with living artists Barba, Rick Walters, and Mark Mahoney—all of whom also worked, or work, at the Pike—providing a continuum in the Southern Californian tattoo narrative.
Every tattoo has a story. What’s yours? Share them with us on Instagram using the hashtag #tattooNHMLA.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90007 www.nhm.org
Timed tickets for Tattoo are on sale at nhm.org and are separate from general admission. Tattoo tickets cost $12 for adults, seniors (62+) and students with valid ID; $6 for children (3-12); and are free for Museum members and children age 2 and under. For tickets visit nhm.org.
Tickets purchased online guarantee admittance to the exhibition. Limited same-day timed tickets are available each day at the door.
Groups of 10 or more people receive discounted rates on Museum admission. Group tickets available now by calling 213.763.3218 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations and more information.
Tickets to the exhibition are free for NHM members. To become a member, visit nhm.org/membership.