33 Artists Explore the “Nexus” of Tattoos and Painting in a Denver Group Show

What do paintings and tattoos have in common? Plenty, according to “Nexus,” a group exhibition at Abend Gallery in Denver. The show features 33 artists, all of whom work at the convergence of these two media, whether as tattoo artists who dabble in paint or as fine artists influenced by tattoo culture—or, in some cases, as dual wielders of paintbrushes and tattoo guns.

Take, for example, Austin-based Jennifer Balkan, a social scientist–turned–oil painter whose realist portraits often depict nude tattooed figures. In Madonna and Child, 2016 AD (2016), loose brushwork and a frame of roses accentuate the tattoos winding up Madonna’s arm as she cradles a rabbit and young child. Balkan’s work simultaneously engages classic painting tropes and the modern tattoo lifestyle, blending the two in a contemporary take on the iconic composition. This blurring, this nexus, unites the various work on display.

The assorted artworks also depict flashes of colorful subcultures and youthful trends that, at least stereotypically, go hand in hand with tattoo culture: mohawks, neon hair, beards, nose rings, etc. In fact, it’s easy to imagine the oil work of Oregon-based tattoo artist and painter Joshua Carlton being turned into a tattoo. His stark, high-contrast Dark Muse (2015) is cast upon a light background and easily imagined as inspiration for a bold tat.

Conversely, Sergio Sanchez’s Single Woman, Rogue Brewery, San Francisco shows a young, apparently tattoo-less woman sidled up to the bar. Given her age and locale, however, she might be hiding a few tats of her own.


—L. Epp Schmidt


Nexus” is on view at Abend Gallery, Denver, Apr. 8–May 7, 2016.

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