Amanda Wachob Opens ‘TATTOO THIS’ Exhibit at MCA Denver

Photo Credit: Maddy Halpern

When it comes to Amanda Wachob, we’re not going to tell you anything that you don’t already know.

The New York tattoo artist, known for pioneering the watercolor tattoo movement and for translating modern-art techniques to the skin, is a living legend. She uses tattoo machines to ink lemons, leather, paper, and silk. There’s a reason why Ad Age voted her one of the most creative people.

Wachob credits her background in art with helping her to break the mold in tattooing. “I’ve had unusual ideas about it from day one. I think part of that was from coming from an art background and having zero knowledge of the history of tattooing when I began,” she says. “I wasn’t influenced by anyone and just wanted to work in a way that felt right and made sense to me.”

Now, Wachob is displaying new work on the walls of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in an exhibit called “TATTOO THIS” that runs through May 26. The show features 103 pieces of experimental work that Wachob has completed over her career so far.

“MCA Denver is thrilled to present Amanda’s first major exhibition,” says Adam Lerner, the Mark G. Falcone Director at MCA Denver. “We’ve always tried to go beyond the conventions of our field and capture the enormous breadth of what counts as art today. We’re thrilled to embrace the artistry of tattooing in a formal-ish museum setting.”

Lerner curated the event and worked with Wachob to pull everything together. Like many others who admire Wachob’s work, he was mesmerized when he saw one of her tattoos in person.

“I found out about Amanda Wachob about two years ago when I stopped someone on the street with the most unique tattoo I had ever seen,” he says. “Shortly after, I visited Amanda at her studio in Brooklyn and discovered the breadth and beauty of her work. I put the exhibition on the calendar almost immediately after that visit.”

Many of the works featured as part of the exhibit are done with tattoo ink and temporary tattoo paper on canvas. They feature Wachob’s signature abstract style that moves and flows into stunning visual displays.

“The canvases I’m showing, are made by using a surrealist technique called decalcomania,” says Wachob. “I’m pressing tattoo ink between two sheets of paper to reveal an abstracted impression.  This process is also how I prep to make designs for the “marbled” looking pieces I tattoo.” 

Additionally Wachob plans to tattoo 11 lucky individuals in the museum as part of an experiential tattoo event. A station will be set up right on the main floor, surrounded by the artwork. Each tattoo design will be linked to the canvases hanging on the gallery walls. “The canvases and the tattoos are inextricably linked,” she says.

Announcements for tattoo bookings for the gallery show were made via Wachob’s newsletter and sold out very quickly. Tattooing will take place between February 15 and February 21. Wachob is only offering arm placements for these designs.

This isn’t the last you’ll see Wachob out in Denver. She plans to return to the state to do a special residency program at the Clyfford Still Museum in April. “I’ll be going through the Still archives, selecting certain pieces of his work, and then offering them as tattoos,” she says.”

“Amanda not only pushes the boundaries of her own field—tattoo art—but also enriches the broader field of contemporary art. Using tattoo machines and ink to make art meant for gallery walls, she has developed a fresh language for abstract art,” says Lerner. “She is the progeny, in many ways, of the earlier, revolutionary cohort of abstract artists, people like Clyfford Still, who Amanda cites as an influence on her work.”

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