Flash Art of Amund Dietzel @ Milwaukee Art Museum

Jul 03, 2013 - Oct 13, 2013Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee

In conjunction with Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary celebration, the Milwaukee Art Museum presents its first tattoo exhibition, highlighting the work of Amund Dietzel, who came to Milwaukee in 1913. This exhibition celebrates one hundred years since Dietzel’s arrival, and in the midst of what many consider a renaissance of tattooing, the Museum is proud to present the work of one of its earliest masters. Dietzel helped define the look of the “traditional” or “old school” tattoo, kept the practice alive through two world wars, and passed on his craft to future generations.

Born in Kristiania, Norway, Dietzel (1891–1974) learned the art of hand-tattooing on a Norway merchant ship. When the ship was wrecked off the coast of Quebec, Dietzel and a few others decided to stay. Dietzel traveled with his close friend William Grimshaw, working carnivals as tattooed men and tattooing between shows.

Passing through Milwaukee at twenty-three, Dietzel decided to make the city his home. He opened a tattoo parlor and soon had a reputation as the region’s premier tattoo artist—and the one to whom World War I and II sailors and Marines went before leaving for battle. In 1964 at the age of seventy-three, Dietzel sold his shop to his friend Gib “Tatts” Thomas. The two worked together in the studio until the city banned tattooing, effective July 1, 1967. “At least it took the city fifty-one years to find out that it doesn’t want me,” said Dietzel.

Tattoo draws exclusively from the Solid State Tattoo Collection, courtesy of Jon Reiter. Reiter, himself a Milwaukee-based tattoo artist, has spent years amassing a collection of Dietzel “flash” (tattoo design drawings) and peripheral Dietzel Studio material. In addition to collecting the artist’s work, Reiter has carefully researched Dietzel’s life and published a two-volume catalogue of his creative output, These Old Blue Arms: The Life and Work of Amund Dietzel. Find more information about the volume here. 

If you happen to be in Milwaukee, there is another show with an opening reception tonight, July 26. Curated by painter Fred Stonehouse with an openiing reception at Tory Folliard Gallery on Friday, July 26, and coinciding with Harley Davidson’s 110th Anniversary, “The Beast Within” brings together a diverse group of tattooers and contemporary artists who are drawn to animal imagery. The renowned tattooer Don Ed Hardy, the exquisite hand-colored etchings of Briony Morrow Cribbs, the boldly graphic paintings of New York tattooist Bert Krak and the Japanese inflected works of Milwaukee’s own Jon Reiter will all be part of the mix.

Here's a list of participating artists: Julio Avila, Steve Boltz, Nick Bubash, Nick Colella, Thom DeVita, Mario Desa, Thomas Ferrella, Ellen Greene, Ed Hardy, Ryan Heshka, Laurie Hogin, Josh Howard, Jeremy Kirk, Bert Krak, Dr. Lakra, Matt Lienes, Gina Litherland, Robert Lostutter, Greg Luckeroth, Nancy Mladenoff, Briony Morrow-Cribbs, Josh Nemec, Michael Noland, A.J. Nordhegan, Manuel Ocampo, Eli Quinters, Bret Rees, Jon Reiter, Bob Roberts, Daniel Santoro, Brook Slane, Patrick Smyczek, Fred Stonehouse, James Tomasello, John Wilde, Karl Wirsum, and Peter Zokosky.