To Roni Zulu – who is better known simply as Zulu of Los Angeles’ famed Zulu Tattoo – there’s no difference between tattooing and any other skill-driven art: “Each process demands discipline and dedication to excellence by the crafter,” he observes. The Craft and Folk Art Museum evidently agrees; this modern tattoo master’s work will be on view through January 6 as part of “L.A. Skin & Ink,” an innovative exhibition exploring the city’s leading role in the American tattoo renaissance of the past 60 years.
Zulu, who attended the Ringling School of Art and Design in Florida before moving to the West Coast, learned his craft from Leo Zulueta, a Filipino-American artist credited with raising the profile of tribal-style tattoos (who himself had studied under Don Ed Hardy, one of the first Westerners to go to Japan and study the country’s traditional tattooing technique). This wide-ranging cultural lineage is evident in Zulu’s work; the artist is well regarded – and sought out – for his contemporary interpretations of ancient art and sacred symbols. With ink on flesh, he translates his clients’ wishes into works of enduring spiritual beauty.