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S.F. Ink 

Wednesday, Aug 5 2009
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Tattoos are irresistible to look at, unless they’re on a sorority sister’s ankle. But it's impolite to stop people on the street and ask to look at their neck art for a while. You have to slyly steal glances, which makes you creepy or charming or psycho, depending on how well you're put together. Why don't people just pose and let us get over it? People do, for Shawn Barber. He's a painter, and since 2004 he has painted portraits of people with lots of tattoos. One of those people is himself; Barber is fairly drenched. He also tattoos other people at S.F.’s Seventh Son Tattoo, so you can be sure the people who appear in his paintings have more ink going on than a few college-era regrets. Barber works in the figurative tradition, which means he has to be very good, true to both the people and to the many other artists whose work crawls along on their bodies. The pieces in the long-running series “Tattooed Portraits” have a manic, often drippy energy, tats exploding with color against dark backgrounds. For the exhibit “Tattooed Portraits: Snapshots,” he has completed 18 new works, focusing on both tattoo artists and the tattooed artist, including portraits by Jeff Rassier, Steve Boltz, and Mike Davis, among others.

An opening reception for “Tattooed Portraits: Snapshots” starts at 7 p.m. on Aug. 15.
Aug. 15-Sept. 8, 2009

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Michael Leaverton

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