events reviews

Review: Shawn Barber “Tattooed Portraits” @ Shooting Gallery

Right after seeing the Moki exhibition I swung by the Shooting Gallery to check out Shawn Barber’s “Tattooed Portraits” series. His last solo show was the “Tattooed Portraits: “Los Angeles” at the Billy Shire Fine Arts over a year ago. In that show he had a few watercolor paintings of artists hands, I was looking forward to seeing some of those here, but regardless I was happy to see these new works.


The whole gallery had been painted gray, it gave everything a nice mellow feel to it while also making the paintings really pop off the wall. The beautiful frames and vivid colors in each piece contrasted with the back wall perfectly. In the very front window was Shawn’s “Double Self Portrait I”; it’s darker in color than some of the other works but the light from the windows helped to show every detail. The alcove that it was in also made it hard to photograph, but the idea is to see the paintings in person not to take pictures of them.


The largest work in the show “Portrait of the Artist, Jo Harrison” occupied the the middle space of the gallery, right across from the door to White Walls. This is my favorite section as the paintings placed here are isolated and the first thing you see when you come through the doorway. The size of this painting is 54″ x 44″, just a bit smaller than “Portrait of the Artist Kat Von D” that was at the Billy Shire Show. I liked the Kat Von D painting and while the background elements no doubt created an environment that “fit” the artist, I think the Jo Harrison is more striking.

It’s a very classically styled painting, a nude figure resting on some form of draped bedding with a slightly textured background. In this painting Jo is engaged with the viewer allowing you to look at her heavily tattooed body, which is impressively painted by Shawn. Her head is held high and she looks dignified, proud of what she has to share. The contrast of the painting and that mellow background draws your eyes and attention directly to the tattooed skin of Jo Harrison. The painting has enough surface area to allow a few loosely brushed areas, along with the turpentine soaked drippings that I always dig in his work. His homepage also has a head study of Jo, perhaps that one will be shown at the Yves Laroche Gallery this September?


As you make your way further into the gallery the lighting gets a bit dimmer, I always have to adjust my camera for shots here. Once again the gray walls and contrast in the paintings helped them jump off the walls, as well as photograph easily. The Holly Ellis head study (shown first) and “Portrait of the Artist, Jeff Rassier” were my favorites. I didn’t manage to get a good shot of “Portrait of the Young Richard Rainin”, the colors are similar to the Jo Harrison and it had the same dignified feel to it.

I was already a fan of Shawn Barber’s work, so I knew I would walk into the gallery and be happy with was shown. He a phenomenal painter, with the ability to create amazing flesh tones and then easily recreating each and every tattoo that adorns that flesh. This is definitely a show to see in person. There was his new book available at the gallery, the first I believe is now sold out, and while I am very happy I was able to see this new work in person.

Head on over and check out the show:
Shooting Gallery SF

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