By Michael “Kaves” McLeer & Billy Burke
Prestel, 240 pages, $34.95
Just a few decades ago graffiti was despised by many and fought by municipalities. Yet today many graffiti writers are respected artists. Tattoo is the first cousin of graffiti and nearly all tattoo artists are former graffiti writers who turned their art into profit-making businesses. The authors of Skin Graf, M. K. McLeer and B. Burke illustrate this development through the lives and arts of twelve well-known tattoo artists.
“These artists are nouveau historians, cultural anthropologists documenting the dreams and crucial cries of the otherwise unheard, disenfranchised people of the planet.”
The large-format, coffee table-style book was produced on heavy, glossy paper; many photographs are on full-page spreads. Since artwork on the skin doesn’t reproduce like graffiti on a wall, many of the photos appear somewhat washed out. But they illustrate the concept and artwork beautifully. The layout is interesting: the artists tell their life stories over several pages and these are only moderately interesting to read. Within these pages are many small, almost thumbnail-sized photos showing the artists’ life and artwork. These are often too small to see clearly. Then come several pages of the larger close-ups of the artwork; unfortunately without captions it’s not certain whose artwork each one is. These close-ups are often accompanied by a smaller photo of the tattoo subjects.
Reviewed by George Erdosh