Mark, the most recent exhibition in the Proof on Main bar, features photography from the 21c Collection by both emerging and internationally known artists who explore tattooing and mark-making in their engaging, unconventional imagery.

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Pierre Gonnord’s portraits of Japanese yakuza gang members continues his photographic series documenting marginalized groups of people living outside mainstream societal norms. These large-scale, luminous portraits transform those often unseen into iconic images. Working in similar fashion, American artist Michael Smith photographed the inmates at one of America’s toughest prisons, the 4th Avenue Jail in Phoenix, Arizona, emphasizing his subject’s complex humanity while offering no clues to his condition or circumstance.

Tattoos have long served as symbols of social and political deviance or resistance.  Kim Joon’s figurative work challenges contemporary Korean taboos against tatoos. In his native culture, those with tattoos are often persecuted, treated as if they have the equivalent of a physical impairment. The Korean military actually enforces a legal ban against tatoos: Joon was relegated to the second tier of the military while doing his mandatory service for being so marked. While referencing a lived experience, Joon’s entangled figures are entirely digitally created: these painterly, lyrical, ethereal bodies exist are the fantastical products of the artist’s imagination and skill. Joon also embeds corporate logos within his digital tattoos, such as the Swarovski swan logo in Birdland, blurring the boundaries between fantasy, consumerism, and the illicit tattooed culture of Korea.

Jean-Luc Moerman’s unique ink drawing on photographs enact an ephemeral form of tattooing to subvert conventional notions of beauty. Moerman appropriates images from the work of fashion photographer Sante D’Orazio, altering them by applying ink-drawn patterns, and thereby creating a figure whose appeal defies the air-brushed stereotype of popular culture.

Hector, a jockey working at California’s Golden Gate racetrack, is featured in Elena Dorfman’s recent series Pleasure Park. This image of classic male beauty draws attention to the exposed scar that stretches down the jockey’s abdomen – most likely the result of the hazards of his occupation–illuminating both his strength and his vulnerability.  Like the tattoos of the Gonnord’s yakuza gang members, of Smith’s prison inmates, of the fictional characters in Kim Joons’ imagery, these marks represent both experience and longing, offering visual evidence of both unique identity and common humanity.


Exhibited Works

  • Kim Joon, Duet-Snake, 2005. Digital print mounted on diasec.
  • Kim JoonBirdland-Swarovski, 2008. Color coupler print mounted on diasec.
  • Kim JoonDuet-Tiger, 2006. Digital c-print.
  • Michael SmithL.R from the series INMATES at Sheriff Joe’s Maricopa County 4th Avenue Jail, 2007. C-print.
  • Pierre GonnordYakuza, 2005. Digital c-print.
  • Pierre GonnordTRIO, 2005. Digital c-print.
  • Elena DorfmanPleasure Jockey #4, 2009. C-print on aluminum.
  • Jean-Luc MoermanSans Titre (After Sante D’Orazio), 2010Ink on paper.