Tattoo Collection

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Vernacular Tattoo Archive

(Morelia, Mexico / Phoenix) No printing details, c. 1970s–1980s]. A superb collection of approximately 325 photographs depicting close up imagery of late Seventies and Eighties tattoo designs. Modern tattooing began in 1891 when Samuel O’Reilly invented the first electric tattoo machine, adapting an earlier patent of Thomas Edison. During the early years most tattoo artists and their customers were outside the mainstream of society. Throughout most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, tattoos were considered low class and vulgar among Americans and Europeans, a common adornment for criminals and drunken sailors. From the 1960s to the 1970s, tattoos became the image of rebellion–mostly worn by bikers, hippies, and other less- accepted cultures in the Western world. By the 1970s and 1980s tattoos had become part of fashion trends developed by small groups seeking to create distinctive looks to identify with their peers. Since the 1980s, tattooing has emerged anew as a widely appealing cultural, artistic and social form. Elite Tattooists, magazine editors and leaders of tattoo organizations have downplayed the working-class roots of tattooing in order to make it more palatable for middle-class consumption. Now a completely new set of meanings derived primarily from non-Western cultures has been created to give tattoos an exotic, primitive flavor. The images here document the period that tattooing was becoming more mainstream and the elevation of the tattoo as an art form. There are examples of earlier, cruder tattoos being covered up and/or enhanced, and many examples of the popular imagery of the time – skulls, skeletons, eagles, dragons, Harley Davidson symbols, panthers, and flowers. A fascinating documentation of an artform as it begins its move from its outsider / outlaw form into mainstream culture. A number of the photographs here attributed to the work of Mike Armstrong, a respected tattooer who worked at the Blue Dragon Studio in Mexico having previously been mentored by Bud Pierson, 1983 Tattooer of the Year.

$2500


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