New exhibit at MOLAA celebrates the social evolution of tattoo art in Los Angeles

The Notorious B.I.G., Johnny Depp, Lady Gaga and Adele have tattoos by him. Now visitors to the Museum of Latin American Art on Sunday will get to see Mark Mahoney, one of Los Angeles County’s most respected tattoo artists, and a celebrity in his own artistic right, lay his fine-line style under the skin of a pre-selected participant.

The live tattooing with Mahoney will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is the first of six events where visitors can watch an influential tattooer at work. It’s all a part of MOLAA’s newest exhibit, INK: Stories on Skin with the work of more than 50 artists represented in a striking documentation of tattoo art in Los Angeles and its impact worldwide.

Hollywood tattoo artist Mark Mahoney. Photo courtesy of Museum of Latin American Art.

Produced by MOLAA, curated by Carlos Ortega and drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, nine sections of the exhibit will offer visitors a look into the particularities of the art in Southern California and across different cultures, the Navy’s presence in Long Beach, how Mexican Americans have helped develop a distinctive Chicano tattoo style, “the splendor of innovation and continuity expressed” by tattoo artists and more.

“With INK: Stories on Skin we present the richness and tradition of tattoo art and emphasize within a global context the importance of the legacy left by the artists and community that made it possible,” Lourdes Ramos, president of MOLAA, said in a statement.

Celebrated tattoo artist Kari Barba, owner of the oldest operating tattoo shop in the Americas—Downtown Long Beach-based Outer Limits Tattoo—is also one of the artists slated to demonstrate their skills. On November 10, Barba will be tattooing one of the six individuals who were invited to share a personal story through art they chose from the museum’s private collection, and were then paired with a tattoo artist who helped them design a meaningful tattoo reflecting the art and their story.

Once considered a tradition or aesthetic reserved for certain cultures or non law-abiding citizens, over 40 percent of millenials and 20 percent of adults now have tattoos, according to the museum. With its mainstream presence today, MOLAA’s retrospective addresses tattoo art’s undeniable role in shaping the cultural fabric of Greater Los Angeles, shedding light on tattoos through a fine-arts lens and highlighting “tattoo art as a relevant, multicultural art form.”

“If there is anything valuable for every human being or community, it is the opportunity to see themselves reflected through their cultural contributions; objects that contain their history and identity,” Ramos stated. “These contributions constitute an essential aspect of the collective soul.”

Live tattoo demonstrations:

  • Mark Mahoney: August 26
  • Ivana Belakova: September 8
  • Freddy Negrete: September 23
  • Nikko Hurtado: October 20
  • Kari Barba: November 10
  • Roxx: December 8

INK: Stories on Skin opens Saturday with a members reception and runs through Feb. 3. INK can be viewed by the public this weekend during the museum’s Target Free Sundays. For more info, visit the website here.

The Museum of Latin American Art is at 628 Alamitos Ave.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.