It seemed like a cool idea: Invite a bunch of tattoo artists to put down the needle and pick up the paintbrush (or pencil or whatever). That's the premise behind "Off the Needle: The Art of SoFla Tattoo Artists," a group show now at the Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery at Tate's Comics in Lauderhill. Gallery owner Amanda Magnetta-Ottati includes works in a variety of media by more than two dozen tattoo artists, who appear to be quite good at their everyday jobs. The problem is, most of them have not so much thought outside the box as merely extended the box. In other words, the bulk of the art here would be more at home on some bruiser's biceps, which is to say there are a lot of skulls and serpents and mystery women. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as in the case of R. Beck's ornately framed painting Bad Granny, in which a wizened hag with a fire-breathing snake around her neck clutches a dagger in one hand, a bloody human heart in the other. Better yet are the mixed-media constructions of Jaksin Valiente, who demonstrates a real command of nontraditional media in such works as a borderline-scary portrait of Hank Williams Sr. and Lead Belly Guitar, which incorporates an actual guitar covered with text, à la the Rev. Howard Finster. And Pooch, of Altered State Tattoo in Lake Worth, contributes a pair of large, H.R. Giger-inflected paintings of skull creatures driving a train, a plane, and a helicopter, which cry out for some enterprising animator to come along and transform them into deliriously deranged animated short subjects. (Through October 10 at Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery, 4566 N. University Drive, Lauderhill; call 954-748-0181, or visit bearandbird.com)
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