The Hammer Museum presents Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World

Sep 20, 2010 by Lisa Newton

The ubiquitous of tattoos on both men and woman, their acceptance as part of our mainstream culture, and the lifestyles that’s developed around it, is something that we’ve come to accept as part of our everyday lifestyle.

Shows like Miami Ink, Los Angeles Ink and others have documented tattoo artists, the art of tattooing, and their patrons’ and provides us with an up-close look into the art, the medium, the methods, and the people and their motivations of why and what tattoos mean to them.

For many, it’s an expression of their “individualism.” But for others–it’s am expression of their conformist attitudes.

Before the mainstreaming of tattooing, it was mostly relegated to sailors, and others considered outside the norms of society. Of course, that’s all changed now. But before this cultural transformation took place–like any art or cultural phenomena–one man played a major part in its development and helped to change it all.

And in our current milieu, that person is Ed Hardy, whose life, work, and impact on the world of tattoos–and now fashion– make him an icon of this trend.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 21st, at 7:00pm, the Hammer is presenting for free, a documentary about Ed Hardy–eponymously entitled Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World:

Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World documents the amazing life journey of California artist Don Ed Hardy (b. 1945), who decided at age 10 to be a tattoo artist. After receiving a classical art education with Asian influences, he went on to initiate tattooing’s unprecedented global popularity. Hardy combined sophisticated work on skin with painting, printmaking, writing, publishing, and curatorial work. The film puts this in context with the Ed Hardy lifestyle brand that has saturated the world.

His education in art was, throughout his life, both formal and informal–from his early experimentation and exposure to the little known craft of tattooing, je attended the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He refined his Asian influences in his tattooing and printmaking by becoming the the first Western tattooer to study under a traditional Japanese master, the prodigious Horihide, in Gifu City, where Hardy pierced and painted the skins of a number of the Japanese gangsters known as Yakuza.

Before Hardy came along, people usually wandered into a shop and pointed to one of the "flash" drawings on the wall and within an hour or so would have it etched in their flesh.

Unbeknown to many, the Ed Hardy label has expanded and exploded into fashion as well–with his merchandise marketed at numerous boutique and department stores including Macy’s and Nordstrom’s, among others; and his product line includes, handbags and wallets, dress Shoes, mens and women T-Shirts, caps, hoodies, watches, boots, and much more.

There are now Ed Hardy stores in New York, Los Angeles, Tucson and Dubai. That $20 million-a-year business, of which Hardy gets a small slice for licensing his name and art, is the handiwork of French-born marketing ace Christian Audigier, who pushed the Von Dutch brand, and now has everybody from Madonna to Larry King draped in Hardy. Now it almost seems as if there’s a Starbucks and a tattoo parlor on every corner.

Why do people get tattoos? I don’t know. I think it’s a completely primal urge," says Hardy, 61. He’s lost track of how many he’s had put on his body since he got his first tattoo, a rose on the left shoulder, at Frisco Bob’s in Oakland four decades ago. "It’s one of those mysterious things. Based on the evidence, the frozen mummies, the oldest members of our species had tattoos. I think it predated cave painting. Source: SFGate

An obsessive picturemaker since the age of 3, Hardy now divides his time between San Francisco, where his Tattoo City shop in North Beach is going strong, and Honolulu, where he paints and makes prints. He also spends time in Japan, where his images are being hand-painted on factory-produced porcelain and paper goods and where he’s going to create a giant dragon — king of the Asian mythical creatures — on the ceiling of an old Buddhist temple in Kyoto.

But like any development from unacceptable to mainstream, Hardy’s life is one of independence and rebellion, as he learned his craft.

How he got from there to here, is chronicled in this documentary film, this Tuesday evening.

The Hammer Museum’s public film presentation of, Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World, is free. Tickets are required, and are available at the Billy Wilder Theater Box Office one hour prior to start time. Limit one ticket per person on a first come, first served basis. Hammer members receive priority seating, subject to availability. Reservations not accepted, RSVPs not required. Parking is available under the museum for $3 after 6:00pm.

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