Middlebury College Museum of Art

News & Events

The Art of Japanese Tattoos Gets its Day in the Sun

May 17, 2016

Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World
June 10–August 7, 2016

For immediate release: 5/17/16
For further information contact: Sarah Laursen, Youngman Curator of Asian Art, at slaursen@middlebury.edu or (802) 443-5491

Middlebury, VT—On Friday, June 10 the Middlebury College Museum of Art will open a very colorful summer exhibition titled Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World. This groundbreaking photographic exhibit explores the artistry of traditional Japanese tattoos along with its rich history and influence on modern tattoo practices.

As Japanese tattoos have moved into the mainstream, the artistry and legacy of Japanese tattooing remain both enigmatic and misunderstood. Often copied by practitioners and aficionados in the West without regard for its rich history, symbolism, or tradition, the art form is commonly reduced to a visual or exotic caricature. Conversely, mainstream Japanese culture still dismisses the subject itself as underground, associating it more with some of its clientele than with the artists practicing it. Both of these mindsets ignore the vast artistry and rich history of the practice.

Although tattooing is largely seen as an underground activity in Japan, Japanese tattoo artists have pursued their passions, applied their skills, and have risen to become internationally acclaimed artists. Through the endurance and dedication of these tattoo artists, Japanese tattooing has also persevered and is now internationally renowned for its artistry, lineage, historical symbolism, and skill.

Curated by Takahiro Kitamura and photographed and designed by Kip Fulbeck, Perseverance is the first exhibition of its kind. It explores Japanese tattooing as an art form by acknowledging its roots in ukiyo-e prints, and it also examines current practices and offshoots of Japanese tattooing in the U.S. and Japan.

Perseverance features the work of seven internationally acclaimed tattoo artists—Horitaka, Horitomo, Chris Horishiki Brand, Miyazo, Shige, Junii and Yokohama Horiken—along with tattoo works by selected others. Through the display of a variety of photographs, including life-sized pictures of full body tattoos, and sculptured objects, this exhibit covers a broad spectrum of the current world of Japanese tattooing.

Associated Event

On Saturday, July 9 the museum will host a live tattooing demonstration from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the lower lobby of the Mahaney Center for the Arts. Visitors are invited to come and go throughout the day to watch as artist Nakona MacDonald works on a client with a large dragon tattoo. The event will include a sake bar from 4 to 6 p.m.

Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World is organized by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California, and is supported, in part, by Mariko Gordon and Hugh Cosman. At Middlebury it is supported, in part, by the Christian A. Johnson Memorial Foundation

The Middlebury College Museum of Art, located in the Mahaney Center for the Arts on Rte. 30 on the southern edge of campus, is free and open to the public Tues. through Fri. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sat. and Sun. from noon to 5 p.m. It is closed Mondays. The museum is physically accessible. Parking is available in the Mahaney Center for the Arts parking lot. For further information and to confirm dates and times of scheduled events, please call (802) 443–5007 or TTY (802) 443–3155, or visit the museum’s website at museum.middlebury.edu.