Marked Men

Damon Murray of FUEL Design and Publishing, just wrote to tell me that “The Russian Criminal Tattoo Exhibition,” 120 original ink drawings by Danzig Baldaev and 16 photographic prints by Sergei Vasiliev, will soon be on view.

Over the last six years FUEL, has produced and published the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volumes I, II and III. Now for the first time, the original artworks from these popular books can be seen. Some of the works to be exhibited can be sampled here.

“The drawings were made over a lifetime by prison attendant Danzig Baldaev,” Murray told me. “Tattoos were his gateway into a secret world in which he acted as ethnographer, recording the rituals of a closed society. The icons and tribal languages he documented are artful, distasteful, sexually explicit, and sometimes just strange, reflecting as they do the lives and traditions of Russian convicts. Skulls, swastikas, harems of naked women, medieval knights in armor, daggers sheathed in blood, benign images of Christ, sweet-faced mothers and their babies, armies of tanks, and a horned Stalin – these are the signs by which the people of this hidden world mark and identify themselves.”

The drawings will be on view from October 29 to November 29 at 4 Wilkes Street, London E1 6QF, Thursday to Sunday, 11am-6pm. Or you can see them reproduced in the books.