Tonight, Ed Hardy will introduce Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World (Docurama Films, 2011), which reflects the artist’s journey, his unexpected rise to cult status, and his influence on pop culture. With one foot in the world of tattooing and the other planted in the fine arts, each informs the other.
After graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute with plans for a career in the fine arts, Hardy veered off course into the seamy world of drunken sailors and fallen women to pursue his childhood obsession: tattooing.
His first mentor, tattooist Phil Sparrow, flipped open a book and said, “This is real art.” Black-and-white photographs of Japanese men (most were yakuza – Japanese gangsters), their bodies covered with visions of Japanese myths and heroes – snarling samurai warriors, rearing dragons, spitting gods of thunder and howling wind – captivated Hardy. With tattooing he could realize his childhood dream of making a living creating art.
At the age of 10, he knew the magic of art and art on living canvases was not only magical, but mystical and powerful. For the next 20 years, he immersed himself in the world of tattoos. With his fine art training and drawing on his vast knowledge of art history and the art and cultures of Asia, Polynesia, and Mexico, he refined and reinvigorated tattoo imagery.
In 2004, Hardy’s images were spotted by a clothing designer and the Ed Hardy brand was born. Its success has allowed him to return to his personal art. Reflected in his paintings are his years of blending high and low art, cutting across cultures and styles, distillations from his collaborations with his clients, and a hyperactive imagination.
(Following the film on the lower level near the entrace of the Museum Store)
Ed Hardy For Life (te Neues, $19.95) and the DVD, Ed Hardy:Tattoo the World will be available for purchase.