Gallery shows tattoos made by artists

In a politically correct world, the reasons for branding oneself with a tattoo demand respect irrespective of whether one considers tattoos to be beautiful, ugly, silly or meaningful. In the battle against rules, anything goes, «otherness» and «personal expression» win over. Things that were once considered unconventional become accepted. Tattoos, which were in the past associated with the underground, have become a trend. Tattoos can be read as signs of protest, sexiness or a desire to appear beautiful, ominous, daring or unconventional. No longer tied to a collective sentiment and extricated from their original function in ancient rituals and tribal rites of passage, they have been reduced to statements of personal identity. Although not tasteful for a bourgeois aesthetic, they are no longer vilified or prohibited. Tattoos are accepted, which, ironically, may mean that they have lost their initial power. «Tattoo My Art,» an exhibition curated by art historian Nadia Argyropoulou and held at the gallery, raises such thoughts on the meaning and symbolic values of tattoos. Painters, conceptual artists and graphic and tattoo artists as well as the choreographer Constantinos Rigos and poet Nanos Valaoritis have designed works with a tattoo in mind and the human body as a canvas. The idea is that the motifs drawn can be turned into a tattoo; inexpensive, small-sized editions of the original drawings are available for tattoo fans to purchase. People who rarely frequent art galleries have been lured to visit the exhibition. Artists who have probably never thought of getting involved with this particular aspect of mass culture have been challenged to think out of their usual box. In a way, the exhibition is about the opening up of art to other aspects of culture and vice versa. It encourages thought on the place that art holds in contemporary culture and on how the dividing lines between different aspects of cultures are becoming outmoded. Yet «Tattoo My Art» is an exhibition that can also be enjoyed without those questions in mind. Most of the drawings are beautiful to look at, many of them a web of intricate motifs. Eleni Kamma’s motifs have finesse and Mark Hadjipateras’s drawing for a «back tattoo» is filled with joyful colors. The drawings of Nanos Valaoritis are varied in style. They seem like the visual analogy of a poem or short story. In the drawings by Giorgos Gyparakis the clearly defined black figures against a white background have a sharpness that make them appear as if they are protruding from the white surface. There are also works by Alexandros Psychoulis, Christos Athanassiadis, Michalis Iliou, Nikos Kanarelis, Vassilis Karouk, Andreas Kasapis, Constantinos Ladianos, Katerina Manolesou, Rosina Baltatzi, Haris Pallas, Constaninos Rigas, Georgia Sagri, Diamantis Sotiropoulos, Panos Famelis, Dimitris Foutris, Marie Wilson-Valaoriti, Yiannis Kouroudis and tattoo artists Yorgos Pawell, Klodian Luca and Thomas Grammatikis. The visual variety parallels the wide selections of motifs that exist in the tattoo vocabulary. Besides those motifs, some are customized, drawn and made exclusively for the person that will wear them. They differ from the rest in that they are considered to be the ultimate expression of individualism and uniqueness. Ironically, that same emphasis on individualism that makes some tattoos seem unique has also compromised the social and cultural associations that they had in ancient times or non-Western societies. Tattoos are no longer the privilege of a few or a discriminating sign. They are accepted and integrated into the mainstream but have also lost their initial power because of that. «Tattoo My Art» underlines that change. It blends the world of tattoos and art together and raises interesting issues on how we define art, as well as mass and underground culture. «Tattoo My Art» at «» (20 Aristophanous, 210.321.4994) through June 30.

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