Exhibit in San Francisco reveals traditional Chinese art's influence on US artist

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An exhibition in San Francisco on U.S. artist Ed Hardy reveals how traditional Chinese culture influenced the creation of some of his most famous designs.

A new retrospective "Ed Hardy: Deeper than Skin" will be on view from Saturday through Oct. 6 at the de Young Museum, featuring more than 300 objects ranging from paintings and drawings to prints and three-dimensional works, showcasing how Hardy integrated historical styles of art from all over the world with his practice of tattooing.

Born in 1945, Hardy is considered one of the most important tattoo artists in the world. His designs went global when he licensed them to a clothing company in 2005, and his name is associated with fashion.

"While Ed is widely known as an iconic tattoo artist, we're excited that visitors will see another side of him and become more familiar with works from his own artistic practice," said Karin Breuer, organizer of the exhibition, at the preview event on Wednesday.

Located in the Golden Gate Park, a popular tourist destination, the de Young Museum expects the exhibit to attract wider audiences, including Chinese visitors who can easily relate to the images that are deeply influenced by Chinese culture.

A key object on view is Hardy's monumental "2,000 Dragons," a 500-foot-long scroll (about 152 meters), on which he painted 2,000 dragons.

Hardy conceived the idea in 1976, waiting 24 years to bring the piece to fruition to honor the millennial year 2000 as well as the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac.

Inspired by Chinese painter Chen Rong's "Nine Dragons" (Song Dynasty, 1244), Hardy chose a scroll format and spent seven months painting a total of 2,000 various dragons on the scroll. He also carefully numbered each dragon in Chinese characters.

Hardy described this piece as a decisive turning point in its scale and expansive gesture that freed him to explore abstract elements along with recognizable forms in his art.

The paintings and drawings that followed, including a 2012 series of dragon images, are notable for their large scale, dramatic color combinations and energetic brushwork.

The artist's fascination with Chinese culture can also been seen in his own tattoos. The photo of his tattooed body, also on display, shows a design of composite Chinese characters, meaning "May the five blessings descend upon this home," and a traditional Chinese New Year greeting that reads "Ushering in wealth and prosperity."

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