I was thrilled to find out I would have the opportunity to review the newest tattoo book on the market, Black and Grey Tattoo: From Street Art to Fine Art by our old friend Marisa Kakoulas (who wrote Legal Link for BME) and co-authored with Edgar Hoill. I’ll admit, I was also a little nervous, after all, Marisa is a friend and what would I say if the book wasn’t up to snuff? All those worries went out the window when I finally got my hands on it.
This is actually a three volume set and to my knowledge the first multi-volume set featuring the work of some of the world’s greatest tattoo artists. From street art to fine art indeed, the range and diversity of the work is amazing and the talent is unquestionable.
Read on for my review!
Marisa called this book mammoth and she wasn’t joking, it is mammoth in both scope and weight! Make sure you lift with your knees when you pick this thing up! Marisa says it weighs around 22 lbs but it felt more like 50 to me!
Ok, enough joking around; let’s talk about what’s inside. The first thing that strikes you are the covers. The work adorning each front is simply breathtaking and with the embossed title running along the front of this hardcover set, this is the kind of book you’ll want to keep on display. Volume one is dedicated to traditional black and grey tattoo work (336 pages), volume two is dark and horror (400 pages) and volume three is photorealism (272 pages).
Flipping it open you’ll find that the included text comes in not only English but German and Spanish as well. There are portraits of the artists as you are introduced to their work so you can see the man (or woman) behind the art. Not only are you treated to some of the most incredible tattoo work I have ever seen; there are also drawings and paintings by the artists showing you they are unquestionably fine artists ranging from across the globe.
Interviews with some of the greats are included but this set is heavy on the photos and light on the text putting the focus exactly where it belongs, on the art. Sometimes books about tattoos become more about the authors opinions than the artwork but you won’t find any of that here. Marisa and Edgar keep their voices to a minimum, letting the artists’ work speak for itself. How refreshing! This set is first and foremost, a celebration of the art of tattoo, but don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be a tattoo enthusiast to enjoy this. The striking photography and incredible work make this book a must for anyone with an appreciation of art and photography. This book would feel just as at home next to other fine art books as it would in a tattoo studio.
The tattoos range from full body suits to knuckles. The work, as I mentioned, is breathtaking. Volume One includes interviews with Jack Rudy, an icon with over 35 years of experience and Jesus “Chuey” Quintanar, a man whose work speaks for itself. In Volume Two, you’ll find interviews with the master of the dark tattoo, Paul Booth, and Xu Zhicheng, out of Beijing whose bold work has earned him international respect. Finally, in Volume Three, Bavarian Andy Engel, who specializes in realism and well-known portrait artist Bob Tyrrell round out the stellar cast of interviewees. In addition to these fine artists you’ll also find work by renowned artists such as Freddy Negrete, Brian Everett, Mark Mahoney, Dan Henk, Kari Barba, Tim Kern, and Tim Hendricks to name a few.
I won’t give anything away, you need to read these interviews for yourself when you pick up your own copy. Each artist has something unique to say and their interviews are coupled with some quotes from other artists and clients to round out the set but it’s by far the photos that make this set so desirable. I wanted to pick out a favourite from each volume but found that I couldn’t. There were so many photos and the work was so top notch that it is impossible for me to say any one photo is a favourite over the others.
While many of the names were familiar to me, most of the work was not and with each turn of the page I was blown away. I admit, part of me was envious, both of the talent that these artists possess and also of their clients who are fortunate enough to carry this art on their skin. I’m a fan of portraiture and expected the Photorealism volume to be my favourite but found myself admiring each volume equally.
It is so nice to see a tattoo book that is exactly what it should be, a celebration of the art and the individuals who make it possible. I have a small collection of tattoo related books and I’ve seen many others that for one reason or another I don’t own. Black and Grey Tattoo stands out among those books, it sets the bar high and makes its home comfortably among the massive tomes of classic art and photography, matching them in quality and class.
With over 1000 pages and coming in its own beautiful box, this would make a perfect gift for the holidays or a birthday, or buy it for yourself, because you deserve it! This stunning coffee table book is something you’ll be proud to display whether you’re tattooed or not.
Also, if you act quickly, Marisa is selling some of her author copies at a reduced rate, so you can contact her for a copy. She only has a limited number so don’t wait.
Black Grey Tattoo
Hardcover: 1008 pages
Publisher: Gazelle Distribution
Languages: English, Spanish, German
Dimensions: 15.1 x 11.8 x 5.4 inches
Weight: 22.5 pounds
Marisa Kakoulas is a New York lawyer and writer. She is currently blogging over at Needles and Sins.