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Friday, Jan. 22, 2010
'108 Heroes of the Suikoden'
Tokyo Vanilla Gallery
Closes Jan. 30
Horiyoshi III is the undisputed master of traditional Japanese-style tattooing and has an unparalleled influence on the local and international tattoo industry.
Now 63 years old and in the twilight of his career, Horiyoshi is renowned for his intricate and visually powerful full-body tattoos and highly respected for his dedication to the art of Japanese tattooing, known as irezumi.
He has produced 10 art books, has his own clothing line and is the founder of the Yokohama Tattoo Museum, which displays the collection of tattoo memorabilia he has acquired over the years.
While Japan has one of the world's richest tattooing cultures, irezumi is — due to the art form's criminal associations — still seen as a subterranean and inaccessible art.
Fortunately, Tokyo Vanilla Gallery isn't afraid to hold a show of 108 of Horiyoshi III's sumi-e (ink painting), each illustrating a different outlaw from the epic Chinese tale "Suikoden" ("The Water Margin").
The popular depiction of "Suikoden" in woodblock prints during the Edo Period, particularly those of the artist Kuniyoshi, was in a large part responsible for the initial boom in tattoos among common people, many of whom were enamored with the Robin Hood-like ways of the tattooed protagonists.
On Jan. 24, visitors to the gallery also will be able hear the master himself give a talk on Japanese tattooing culture. While many purveyors of traditional Japanese tattooing think it's cool to work in the shadows, this rare opportunity to not only see Horiyoshi III's work but also meet the artist is far cooler.