Towering ink-ferno: Tattoo artists paint model water towers

Boundless possibilities: Artists chose one either a Boundless Brooklyn miniature water tower or billboard and a one-foot-by-one-foot canvas to paint and decorate for “Tat It Up!” at Grumpy Bert.
Photo by Louise Wateridge

This show is more than skin-deep.

A group of tattoo and graffiti artists have exchanged their usual flesh and brick canvases in favor of tiny water towers and billboards. The hand-painted miniature models from Boundless Brooklyn will be on display in the “Tat It Up” show at Grumpy Bert, opening on Jan. 8. The show gives the artists a rare chance to display their work in a gallery setting, said one of the show’s curators.

“I’m a big fan of tattoo art and we thought it would be cool to have tattoo artists showcase their artistry on something other than on skin,” said Bushwick painter and curator Mary Damian. “When you look at their websites, they all have incredible paintings and illustrations so we thought, ‘Let’s give them a chance to showcase that.’ ”

Not just skin deep: (L-R) Curator Mary Damian, Grumpy Bert owner Albert Chau, and artist Cris Element show off the work of tattoo and street artists that are on display for the “Tat It Up!” show at Grumpy Bert in Boerum Hill.
Photo by Louise Wateridge

The show is a homecoming of sorts for Boundless Brooklyn, which produces models of assemble-it-yourself model kits of Brooklyn’s iconic skyline features, including a mini-Kentile Floors sign. More than 100 stores worldwide sell the kits, and some of the water towers are visible on the set of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Founders and Brooklynites David Shulman and Terance Arjo have held gallery shows of their decorated models in the city’s other boroughs, as well as in Chicago, Montreal, and Dublin, but the show at Grumpy Bert will be the first in the borough that inspired the business.

The owner of the Grumpy Bert store and gallery, a long-term fan of Boundless Brooklyn, said the show has been a long time coming.

“We’ve been carrying their products since they first started,” said Grumpy Bert’s owner and namesake, Albert Chau. “We threw around the idea of a show a lot but the timing was never right. So when it was, we decided to go for it.”

Different strokes: Artists were given free reign to paint whatever they please on the mini water towers and billboards for “Tat it up!” One painted a salacious Statue of Liberty. Another a classic tattoo pinup girl. And of course, one painted a trippy cat.
Photo by Louise Wateridge

Damian booked 14 ink-slinging artists for the show, most of them from Brooklyn, including “Ink Masters” reality show contestant and Park Slope tattoo parlor owner Cris Element. Each artist painted a small canvas and a Boundless Brooklyn water tower or a billboard.

Damian has done shows with Boundless Brooklyn before, including a live painting session at the 2015 New York Comic-Con, and said the shows gave a major publicity boost to her and the other artists involved. She hopes the Grumpy Bert show will do the same for this new crop of artists.

“[Shulman and Arjo] opened up a lot for up-and-coming artists, so we wanted to give back and say thanks,” she said. “The artists got really creative and for those who don’t have the same exposure as others, hopefully it’s their time to shine.”

In his element: Tattoo artist Cris Element painted a canvas and Boundless Brooklyn water tower for “Tat It Up!” at Grumpy Bert. Element works out of Park Slope and Staten Island and was featured on the Spike Channel’s “Inkmaster” show in 2014.
Photo by Louise Wateridge

“Tat It Up” at Grumpy Bert [82 Bond St. between State Street and Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, (347) 855-4849, www.grumpybert.com]. Opening on Jan. 8 at 7 pm. Free. Show runs through Jan. 31.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.

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