Invisible Man Tattoo
On January 9, Doreen Garner will begin work on Invisible Man Tattoo, transforms Recess into a pop up tattoo shop offering designs that reflect the histories and experiences of Black people and the African Diaspora. Throughout the project, Garner will provide dozens of tattoos to visiting patrons while covering Recess’s walls with the selected images and possible designs.
Garner’s sculptural and installation work focus on the exploitation of Black bodies by the medical industry from 1800’s to the present day. The artist probes the frequently-suppressed history of Black people who were used as trial and error subjects in medical operations and tests – often being denied anesthesia and surviving multiple surgeries in the process. Invisible Man Tattoo will mobilize these themes in concert with Garner’s practice as a licensed tattoo artist to address the persistent erasure of Black resilience and Black excellence within textbooks, curriculums, and mass media as well as the state sanctioned exploitation of Black bodies at the hands of medical and political institutions within the United States.
Visitors will be able to schedule appointments to receive tattoos through an online appointment system on the Recess website. Select free flash tattoos will be provided to visitors who identify as Black. In addition to the free collection other more elaborate flash tattoos will be available for purchase for Black visitors as well as visitors who do not self-identify as such. In exchange for receiving a tattoo, each recipient will be asked to record a video diary discussing the historical and social relevance of their selection. The recorded testimonies will be on view in the shop waiting room throughout the Session.
While the American traditional style of tattooing can be seen on the walls and in the portfolios of tattoo shops across the US, rarely are Black figures or Black culture included in these renditions of American life. What is instead most often portrayed is a mythology of a rugged “resilient American,” typically white and male, as well as sexualized representations of busty white women. Deeply attentive to these omissions and false narratives within the tattoo community, Garner positions Invisible Man Tattoo as a Black-owned business. The designs, co-created by Garner and Donte Neal, will commemorate the bravery and resilience of Black heroes and revolutionary icons—from the enslaved Africans who led slave ship revolts aboard the Brig Creole, the Hermosa, the Comet, and the Enterprise to The Black Panthers, abolitionist leaders, and Black Americans subjected to enslavement, medical torture, and racial oppression. Invisible Man Tattoo will employ tattooing as a means of registering and rendering visible these complex realities.
About the artist
On view: November 11, 2023–January 25, 2024
Marcela Torres and Assembly
September 14–November 10, 2023
KING COBRA and Hue Hallums