I had the great pleasure of spending time with Cheri and Omar, owners of Revolution Tattoo and Art Gallery, a merge of gallery and tattoo shop. They had quite an adventure on the long and winding path to realizing a dream, including the inevitable problems of licensing and permit issues in our windy city, neighbors aghast, curious and ultimately welcoming.
Due to the barriers and wait, Omar and Cheri did a smart business move and kept their day jobs as they obtained the fab space on Western Avenue, then proceeded with the gallery and doing events, and due to persistance and hard work, obtaining the right permits to have a working tattoo shop. We discussed some fun points besides the beginnings - following is some highlights of our chat.
I know you had the struggle of permits to open the gallery and
shop. Was it the idea at the beginning to merge the businesses or did
the gallery come from having the space and not being able to open a
Omar was at a shop called Body Basics
with folks like Patrick Cornolo, Hannah Aitchison, etc. and the shop
inevitably closed. At this time Cheri was managing an art store, and we
really decided it was the start of making a dream into reality. The
idea always was to have both parts of the business from the beginning.
Due to the time constraints to get all paperwork and legal permits, we
utilized the gallery space first and we both kept working, Omar then at
Tomato Tattoo. After the wait, we were able to open the tattoo shop
too. During this time we were able to collaborate and really develop a
co - op of artists.
Tell me a bit more about finding artists and the collaborative gallery, shop, art, tattoo world you are immersed in.
Most artists are people we know through the community of tattoo artists
and fine artists we have been working with at tattoo shops in Chicago
and some of course, from when Cheri managed the art store. Through them
the circle has widened. Our biggest goal was to really blend the fine
art and tattoo art world and the population in Chicago that frequent
So are all the featured gallery artists tattoo artists also?
not all but certainly a majority. We do heavily lean toward low brow
art and illustrative art which of course is in hand with a lot of tattoo
artists. We also cater to our audience, our artwork is reasonable and
affordable. We cannot afford an 8k painting and neither can most of our
friends, so we try to feature art that is priced to sell, both for the
customers and artists. We do feature larger, more expensive pieces but
it is not our main feature. With the group shows, the artists have the
low pressure of creating a piece, instead of a huge body of work and the
collaborative efforts bring us a wider base of art and clients. Within
the shop, the artists have a weekly drawing night, sometimes inviting
other guest tattoo artists, that is now ritual. It has provided them
inspiration, and an important detail for their hectic schedules, a block
of time to create, draw, paint and do art for creative outlet first and
I think that is a great business model for
your gallery and artists. I like to find out the way things happen and
it seems that the philosophies benefit your artists and clients. Omar, I
know you are a heavy metal guy, music is always a great influences on
artists, can you give me a brief background how you went into tattooing
and influences you had?
As a kid, I knew I
could draw, and was influenced by comic books, Mad magazine, heavy
metal music and graffiti street art. After a time in military school,
which was not a bad experience, I was a runner at the board of trade,
had some life experience and realized art could be a living, not just an
interest. The environment here, with constant changing art on the
walls, gallery shows etc. provide an level of exposure that influences
us and fuels our inspiration in art and tattooing.
Cheri, can you also tell me who the staff is here and their influences?
Sure we have three tattoo artists on staff with Omar. They are :
Maxwell Brown: fine art mediums include
watercolor, liquid acrylics, and pen & ink
Influences: Hokasai, Kuniyoshi, Ukiyo-e, Aubrey Beardsley, Pieter Bruegel.
Marshall Brown: fine art mediums are watercolor, colored pencil on coquille paper, graphic design.
Influences: Max Ernst, colonial folk art, Hieronymus Bosch
Chito Tena: fine art mediums used are watercolor & colored pencil on coquille paper.
Influences: Alberto Vargas, Audrey Kawaski, Hokasai
I would like to note how our artists are great about being a part of
both businesses, Chito had a solo show here and now Max is curating a
painted flash show in July.
I recently attended a
large group show you did, I do know once in awhile you do shows in
different arenas besides your own gallery. This one was a Voodoo based
theme, can you explain that a bit and tell me about the themed shows,
and of course a glimpse of anything coming up?
Sure the show you are mentioning was at the Flat Iron Bar, we had done a
show there with great success and got invited back. We do a majority
here but we are foreseeing some large scale events this year with other
venues too. The voodoo based show really was after talking about
Spring seasonal holidays, then Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras etc. After it is
decided we inform the artists and they stay based in the theme but
anywhere they want to take it. This summer we are looking forward to a
70's carnival based theme among others. All information about future
shows can be found at the website! Revolution Tattoo and Art Gallery