Russian Criminal Tattoo Archive

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Grimaldi Gavin 17 October–22 November 2014 Russian Criminal Tattoo Police Files

FUEL present: Photographs from the Arkady Bronnikov collection at Grimaldi Gavin gallery in Albemarle Street, London W1. Including three 100x140cm prints and twenty at 30x40cm. These photographs sourced from Soviet Police Files date from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s and have never been exhibited before.

'The alarming sight of tattooed Soviet prisoners soon shifts to fascination for the anonymous inmates’ vernacular artistry. The delicate and agonising designs — which were created with burnt or crushed powders mixed with urine — carry gangland symbolism representing violent hierarchies. The physical and psychological pain captured in Bronnikov’s photographs is best represented in the portrait of a young man with closed eyelids painted “Do not” and “wake me”.'
Sue Steward, Evening Standard, 4 stars

'Curated from the archive of criminal tattoo photographs owned by the FUEL design group and publishing house, this exhibition is an extraordinary insight into the Russian underworld’s inky symbolism. […] The images were originally put together to help break the convicts’ code and have a stark formalism, and often palpable tension, that makes for very interesting viewing.'
Diane Smyth, British Journal of Photography

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