Now in Theaters: Tattoo Nation, An In-depth Look at Chicano Tattoo Culture

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Twitter: @AndreaGompf

Countercultural movements seem destined to eventually get co-opted by the mainstream. Go to a Hot Topic in any suburban American mall, and you’ll see sanitized versions of the clothing that was once associated with underground goth, punk and grunge subcultures.  Walk down the streets of gentrified neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Silverlake, Portland, etc. and you’ll see the young and upwardly mobile sporting sleeves of tattoos – a look once associated with outlaw bikers, sailors, and lifers in the joint.

But how and why does this happen?

Tattoo Nation, a film that opened in theaters yesterday, explores this very question when it comes ink – namely, how did tattoos go from a sign of rebellion to the widely accepted art form they are today?

Painting a vivid portrait of tattoo culture in East LA’s Chicano community, the film follows three Chicano tattoo pioneers – Charlie Cartwright, Jack Rudy and Freddy Negrete – who played an instrumental role in transitioning tattoos from the margin to the mainstream. Their now-iconic black & grey tattoo style, with its detailed fine line style and shading, forever changed the world of ink and eventually spawned a movement of self-expression — and color — that spread far beyond its East LA origins. It’s a fascinating story and a celebration of the evolution of an art form.

Tattoo Nation is playing in major theaters across 122 cities nationwide. Check out the trailer (featuring Remezcla fav Danny Trejo!) below:

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