Artist Freddy Negrete tattoos Louie Perez III in the Tattoo exhibition’s Tattoo Parlor at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. (Photo by Mario Lopez, courtesy of NHMLA)

Not that long ago, tattoos were associated predominantly with those on the margins of society: sailors, criminals, gang members, carnival performers. Although tattoos have crossed over into the mainstream, they are still perceived mainly as a lowbrow, pop-cultural phenomenon.

A new show at LA’s Natural History Museum aims to broaden our understanding of tattooing, tracing a 5,000-year history from its traditional origins in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas, to its evolution as a contemporary art form enjoyed by a large cross-section of people around the world. Originating at the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, the LA version of the exhibition has added a section on the contributions of pioneering artists from Long Beach to East LA, whose influences on modern tattoo culture cannot be overstated.

This Thursday, four celebrated Southern California tattoo artists — Jack Rudy, Freddy Negrete, Franco Vescovi, and Carlos Torres — will discuss the development of the Black and Gray style from its local origins in East LA to its worldwide popularity. There will also be an accompanying Tattoo Demo by Louie Perez III of Shamrock Social Club, who will tattoo NHMLA entomologist Lisa Gonzalez with an image of a new species of phorid fly.

When: Thursday, November 30, 6–9pm ($10–12)
Where: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (900 Exposition Boulevard, Exposition Park, Los Angeles)

More info here.

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.