Deeper than Skin Stories: Joseph Ari Aloi, aka JK5, on Deconstructing and Freeing the Confines of Tattooing
We have had a blast during the run of Ed Hardy: Deeper than Skin, on view now at the de Young museum. It has given us a chance to explore the pioneering career of such an influential tattoo artist, but find the stories of unique ways in which his work has spawned a generation of fellow tattoo artists. From Bert Krak to Dr Lakra, there is a ton of Juxtapoz's own history tied up in a man who studied at SFAI, got accepted to Yale, and decided he wanted to open a tattoo shop instead. That was unheard of in the mid-1960s! The man was a true rebel.
We have been talking to artists and tattooers all summer, getting some of their personal stories about Hardy's influence. Today, we talk to Three Kings Tattoo's Joseph Ari Aloi, aka JK5, who works at the Greenpoint, Brooklyn shop. He has spent two decades as a tattoo artist, which he says has "rendered him compatriot to creatives of varying infamy around the world." We asked him to talk about Mr. Hardy, and here's his story.
"Before I started tattooing in September 1994, I was getting tattooed out of my friend's kitchen in Providence while I attended RISD. I got a catalog from a show in Chicago called Eye Tattooed America, featuring tattoo artists works in other mediums. I was blown away, and Don Ed Hardy led the visionary, and allegorical, charge.
"Hardy's world of drawings, paintings and prints was an ethereal, imaginative, symbolic, wild, floating universe. He was using classic tattoo imagery and iconography, but deconstructing and freeing its confines as if in a deep, lucid dream state. They were so creative. He was applying, and manipulating a vernacular in a whole new way, and it was so exciting.
"I became a tattoo artist two years later, and Ed Hardy, the father of modern tattooing, was lighting my eyes on fire and inspiring me from the jump. Hardy taught me to do my own thing, carve my own lane, and to have a good time with all of tattooings myriad vocabularies and strange, mysterious magic. He convinced me to dive into the subconscious sea that was beckoning me. He communicated that this path was a higher, mystical, and deeply spiritual calling, crafting his own cosmology, and I knew I had to stand on the shoulder of this giant. I thank Ed for being the most profound, and naturally impactful teacher." —Joseph Ari Aloi, aka JK5, Three Kings Tattoo