“Out of Step/Out of Line” debuted on April 8 at the Downtown Long Beach campus of the Long Beach Museum of Art.
Museum officials hosted a private reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for museum members and then was opened to the general public at 7 p.m.
The exhibit was co-curated by Paul Loya, the museum’s deputy director of exhibitions, and Southern California based artist Nathan Kostechko. The exhibition serves as a bridge between Long Beach’s fine art community and the tattoo community, both having a rich history in the city.
Throughout the evening museum staff, artists and guests mingled while drinking wine and beer. Guests snacked on the fruit board and conversed about the fine art adorning the gallery.
Other guests leaned close to the walls, hovering inches away, admiring the paintings of different sizes and different mediums. Others were captivated by the sculptures carved from paper currency or by hand painted ceramics.
Many guests were tattoo enthusiasts, some opting for short sleeves and deep necks to show off their tattoos. Others wore long sleeves and buttoned up shirts that could be seen overflowing with body ink.
As a curator for Long Beach Museum of Art, Loya curates galleries at both the downtown location and the main Ocean Blvd. location. He often recruits a co-curator for the downtown location where he said he can take a more experimental approach.
Co-curator, Kostechko has been tattooing for over 18 years and currently tattoos primarily in Echo Park, LA. These deep ties within the tattoo community and the fine art community made him the ideal candidate to co-curate the show.
“[We] were having this talk about a tattoo artist that shared a tattoo studio practice and fine art practice,” Loya said. “The way the craft of tattoo overshadows the fine art practice of a lot of these contemporary artists and the stigma around that within the commercial art world.”
Although he considers himself a tattoo collector, Loya says that he is not deeply embedded within the tattoo community. In Loya’s own words it was important for the museum to provide an institutional platform for artists.
He also “wanted a voice from the tattoo community to be a part of it, I didn’t want to borrow.”
Ron Nelson, the executive director of the museum, highlighted the importance of tattooing in Long Beach’s history.
Aside from being the home of the longest operating tattoo studio in the United States, Long Beach has a forgotten past as a tattoo hotspot. It’s close ties to the Navy made the Pike a popular tattoo spot for sailors in the 1900s.
“That history is now being appreciated. I think that’s something we are all thrilled to be able to embrace,” Nelson said. “It’s such an amazing city, so many diverse languages, ethnicities, sexualities everything. Tattoos meld together this unifying effect.”
The Long Beach Museum of Art downtown location is open Thursday through Sunday with free admission. “Out of Step/Out of Line” will be on display until June 26, 2022.
For more information, visit the Long Beach Museum of Art website.