Shawn Baber’s “Tattooed Portraits: Chronicle”
April 30th, 2010 by Chloe Gallagher
This month, Shawn Barber will be bringing his West Coast flavor back East with his first NYC solo show entitled “Tattooed Portraits: Chronicle” at Joshua Liner Gallery. LA-based Barber has built a career on documenting contemporary tattoo culture with his beautifully rendered, painterly portraits. In this series of 20 new paintings and eight works on paper, Barber continues to expand on his well loved series “Tattooed Portraits,” which have been shown to great acclaim at galleries like The Shooting Gallery in SF, and Lineage Gallery in Philly.This series of portraits and studio studies eloquently capture the excitement of contemporary tattoo culture with their impassioned brushwork, while the classical style of much of the work firmly anchors the movement in the larger story of human history.
His portraits bring alive the stories told in the volumes his subjects have written on their skin. With bold passages of Caravaggio worthy chiaroscuro, and bright, exacting highlights of white against seas of black, Barber makes master pieces out of master pieces. A quick look at the link’s section of Barber’s website reveals an wide ranging set of artistic inspiration – from Van Dyck and Egon Schiele to contemporary talents such as Nicola Verlato and Mike Giant. A gifted tattoo artist himself, Barber’s reverence for the artform is apparent in his loving rendering of the canvas of his subjects’ skin. His mark making is studied and patient, in much the same way that (you would hope) a tattoo artist would approach a design meant to live permanently on one’s skin.
While there are many historicizing elements to Barber’s collection -a portrait of artist Damon Conklin is done “after Valasquez,” and several pieces offer views into the work spaces of fellow artists in the grand tradition of Vermeer’s “The Studio- he still captures a truely impressive sense of vibrancy and presence. “Tattooed Portraits: Chronicle,” displaying some of Barber’s most mature and alluring work, is not to be missed.