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BEYOND THE STREETS New York, 2019. Photo by Dan Bradica.

BERT KRAK

ARTIST AT A GLANCE

bert krak skull
bert krak art skull
Beyond The Streets NYC Companion Book

Beyond The Streets NYC Companion Book

$50.00

Felipe Pantone Limited Edition Praesentia Book PRE-ORDER

Felipe Pantone Limited Edition "Praesentia" Book PRE-ORDER

$95.00

BERT KRAK Brooklyn NYC Tattooing Zine

BERT KRAK "Brooklyn NYC Tattooing" Zine

$20.00

Estevan Oriol LA Fingers Limited Edition Montana Spray Paint Can

Estevan Oriol "LA Fingers" Limited Edition Montana Spray Paint Can

$65.00

Martha Cooper Limited Edition Spray Nation Box Set

Martha Cooper Limited Edition "Spray Nation Box Set"

$250.00

MADSAKI Mona Lisa 3 Spray Paint Can

MADSAKI "Mona Lisa 3 Spray Paint Can"

$35.00

Spray Cans T-Shirt

Spray Cans T-Shirt

$30.00

Tigerclaw Skate Board Mount

Tigerclaw Skate Board Mount

$20.00

ANDRE Limited Edition Montana Spray Paint Can

ANDRE Limited Edition Montana Spray Paint Can

$35.00

Andre  / Mr. A - New York Love T-Shirt- White

Andre / Mr. A - New York Love T-Shirt- White

$30.00

TAKI 183 50th Anniversary T-Shirt

TAKI 183 50th Anniversary T-Shirt

$30.00

Felipe Pantone CHROMADYNAMICA30p Print PRE-ORDER

Felipe Pantone "CHROMADYNAMICA30p" Print PRE-ORDER

$550.00

AIKO Zine

AIKO Zine

$30.00

Roger Gastman Don't Draw Dirty Pictures Skate Deck

Roger Gastman "Don't Draw Dirty Pictures" Skate Deck

$55.00

Felipe Pantone OPTICHROMIE112p Print PRE-ORDER

Felipe Pantone "OPTICHROMIE112p" Print PRE-ORDER

$550.00

FAILE Subrosa Skate Deck

FAILE "Subrosa" Skate Deck

$180.00

FAILE Hollywood Skate Deck

FAILE "Hollywood" Skate Deck

$180.00

Ryan Travis Christian Infinite Knife Life Skate Deck

Ryan Travis Christian "Infinite Knife Life" Skate Deck

$150.00

Ian Reid A Few Days And Nights

Ian Reid "A Few Days And Nights"

$25.00

The Perez Bros. The Perez Bros. Volume 1

The Perez Bros. "The Perez Bros. Volume 1"

$30.00

Chaz Bojórquez LA MIX (Blue) Print

Chaz Bojórquez "LA MIX (Blue)" Print

$250.00

Dan Smith You'll Never Walk Alone

Dan Smith "You'll Never Walk Alone"

$40.00

Bert Krak Magic Touch 16 AP Print

Bert Krak "Magic Touch 16" AP Print

$200.00

Andre Saraiva Graffiti Dream Print

Andre Saraiva "Graffiti Dream" Print

$250.00

Tim Conlon Tropic-Ana Print

Tim Conlon "Tropic-Ana" Print

$200.00

DEFER Style Rider Skate Deck

DEFER "Style Rider" Skate Deck

$150.00

Bert Krak Magic Touch Skate Deck 1

Bert Krak "Magic Touch Skate Deck 1"

$150.00

Alex Pardee Blood Bag #1 Skate Deck

Alex Pardee "Blood Bag #1" Skate Deck

$150.00

Roger Gastman Don't Draw Dirty Pictures 2 Print

Roger Gastman "Don't Draw Dirty Pictures 2" Print

$100.00

Ian Reid Complex Geometry

Ian Reid "Complex Geometry"

$39.99

Gordon Matta Clark Pistol Experience, 1973 Skate Deck

Gordon Matta Clark "Pistol Experience, 1973" Skate Deck

$150.00

WILD STYLE Short-Sleeve White Tee

WILD STYLE "Short-Sleeve White Tee"

$40.00

CORNBREAD The Legend Of Print

CORNBREAD "The Legend Of" Print

$200.00

Gustavo Zermeño Jr. Jack

Gustavo Zermeño Jr. "Jack"

$225.00

Kenny Scharf Fanny Pack

Kenny Scharf Fanny Pack

$50.00

The Perez Bros. Los Musicos Skate Deck

The Perez Bros. "Los Musicos" Skate Deck

$150.00

Roger Gastman Don't Draw Dirty Pictures 1 Print

Roger Gastman "Don't Draw Dirty Pictures 1" Print

$100.00

WILD STYLE Wild Style Zine

WILD STYLE "Wild Style Zine"

$40.00

Alex Pardee Blood Bag #2 Print

Alex Pardee "Blood Bag #2" Print

$150.00

LADY PINK 1969 Super Sport Camaro Print

LADY PINK "1969 Super Sport Camaro" Print

$250.00

WILD STYLE Long-Sleeve Black Tee

WILD STYLE "Long-Sleeve Black Tee"

$55.00

Ryan Travis Christian For A Good Time Skate Deck

Ryan Travis Christian "For A Good Time" Skate Deck

$150.00

Rust Magic (Grey) Tee-Shirt

"Rust Magic (Grey)" Tee-Shirt

$40.00

SWOON Amanda Print

SWOON "Amanda" Print

$375.00

Bert Krak Uptown Tony Collectible Figure

Bert Krak "Uptown Tony" Collectible Figure

$150.00

Chaz Bojórquez LA MIX (Red) Print

Chaz Bojórquez "LA MIX (Red)" Print

$250.00

Gustavo Zermeño Jr. Spike

Gustavo Zermeño Jr. "Spike"

$225.00

MIKE GIANT Skull Pennant

MIKE GIANT "Skull Pennant"

$150.00

MIKE GIANT Tupac Pennant

MIKE GIANT "Tupac Pennant"

$150.00

Hand-Signed Morning Wood by Roger Gastman

Hand-Signed "Morning Wood" by Roger Gastman

$50.00

Magic Touch is an artistic expression that celebrates the creative follies of Canarsie homeowners from the late 20th century — a sort of shade-tree tattoo parlor that might exist on your cousin Carmine’s back porch from a time when Cadillac was king and you picked your tattoo design off the wall. In this installation, celebrated New York tattoo artist Bert Krak has reproduced sheets of flash inspired by his late friend and mentor Tony Polito, while Alexis Ross has continued to secure his footing as the consummate shill, who is neither tattoo man nor street art man.

The Imprint of Bert Krak’s Tattoo Art

Before graffiti became the scourge of New York City in the late ’60s/early ’70s, another art form occupied outlaw status across the five boroughs — TATTOOING. Beginning in 1961 it was illegal in the city to permanently ink another human being, a prohibition that would remain on the books for 36 years.

Much in the same way that graffiti writers only viewed the illegality as a challenge rather than a deterrent, the tattoo masters of the 1960s — guys like Tony Polito and Thom DeVita — continued to push the boundaries of what was possible with an electric tattooing machine while the ban was still in place.

Bert Krak may be called a contemporary tattoo artist, but his classic designs, knowledge of history and vision for his Smith Street Tattoo Parlour (“Brooklyn’s Finest”) suggest he’s a spiritual descendant of those past masters.

He began his tattoo career in Florida at Rocka- billy Tattoo, under the tutelage of three important local figures: Dave Poole, Danny Knight and “Uncle Johnny” Colamarino. The trio instilled in him the tenets of tattooing and also provided a positive example of what a tireless work ethic entails.

bert krak tatovering
Bert Krak tattoo machines, Used For Classic and Contemporary Tattoos

“When it comes to work, I just like to work,” says the 41-year-old father of four. “I’ve always been that way — whether it’s the job I have now or any job I’ve ever had. I’ve always liked busy days better than slow ones. I paint, I do ink drawings and watercolor and acrylic paintings. Lately I haven’t had a lot of time to produce art on paper because tattooing is keeping me so busy.”

This combination of hard work and honoring the past has proven to be a successful recipe for Bert Krak. Since opening Smith Street Tattoo Parlour in 2008 in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn — along with artists Steve Boltz (co-owner) and Eli Quinters — he has become one of the most well- known and well-respected practitioners of the American traditional style in the United States.

Storied publications like The New York Times have said of Smith Street, “[it] is perhaps the most renowned parlor doing American traditional work.”

But what exactly defines the style?

“I think the best way to describe American traditional tattoos is that they’re tattoos that look like tattoos,” Krak says. “Let’s just say it’s 1950 and you walk into a tattoo shop. There would be designs on the wall called ‘flash.’ People would pick these designs and say ‘I want an eagle,’ or a heart, a dagger, a snake, a skull. But at a certain point — I’m going to say in the ’70s — that all changed, when people realized that tattooing is an art that you can do a bunch of different ways. It no longer has to be traditional and there’s this whole custom thing in there. What’s traditional to me are those images from the very beginning.”

Bert Krak “SENT” to the King

Speed isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a tattoo artist. But like with anyone who has ever put in thousands of hours in their trade, Krak has earned a reputation in the industry for taking customers from ideation to completed tattoo at a rapid rate — and saving them from any bad ideas they might live to regret. “I don’t have any wasted moves,” he says.

While Bert Krak himself never wrote graffiti, he’s been intertwined with the culture ever since he moved to New York City. One of his early business part- ners in the tattoo industry was an influential writer from the 1980s named SENT, from the crew TMR. Through this relationship, Krak got a crash course in New York graffiti history. “I was educated in graffiti by someone who is a king,” Krak recalls.

Bert Krak would later learn that the facade of Smith Street Tattoo Parlour itself — in the form of several scrawls reading “PRAY” — also strength- ened his connection to graffiti culture.

bert krak skull girl scythe
Bert Krak Flash Tattoo

As the legend goes, a woman — possibly home- less, possibly a psychiatric nurse at Bellevue Hospital who had found religion — began scratch- ing the word “PRAY” into telephone booths and subway station pillars all across New York City in the late 1960s, during a time when people were already trying to unlock the motivations behind the Magic Marker tags of graffiti pioneers like JULIO 204 and TAKI 183. This became her de facto moniker, although she was also known to leave behind other religious-themed words/phrases like “OBEYGOD,” “WORSHIPGOD” and “GOTOCHURCH.”

One can’t help but notice the irony that PRAY’s words outlasted Mayor Ed Koch’s war on graffiti in the 1980s and now lives outside a tattoo shop that honors the vintage flash of artists who survived the tattoo ban.

Bert Krak certainly recognizes the kinship between those who have made their livings from each respective medium. “Tattooing and graffiti are both art that some people love and other people hate,” he says. “It’s definitely a body of work that is created by interesting people on both sides.”

For his part, Bert Krak just does his level best to bring a sense of integrity to his work on a daily basis. “All I can do is really just follow the rules, be respect- ful, be honest and understand that what I do for a living is a huge responsibility,” he says. “There’s also a huge balance. I need to make sure I give people what they want, but at the same time I’ve got to make sure I don’t give them some- thing that they think they want but aren’t going to want forever. I don’t want people who don’t deserve to tattoo to do it. Some people come into tattooing because they don’t want to do anything else. I say to people, ‘What are you going to bring into tattooing that we don’t already have?’ Do we really need one more guy who doesn’t work super hard at it, that just gets by doing mediocre things that last forever on people and never goes away?”

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