It is becoming increasingly rare to find a person in New York City who grew up in New York City. The city is now full of transplants, all with different hopes and dreams, who come to New York starry eyed and hopeful. They need the city to beat down on them for a few years in order to see its true nature.
But there stands Adam Suerte, co-owner of Brooklyn Tattoo and native New Yorker who has been shaped by the city’s sometimes cruel nature, and has come out the better for it. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Suerte has been molded by the tough city streets that served as his canvas for a number of years via his humble beginnings as a graffiti artist. “A lot of my work harkens back to that urban iconographic style,” Suerte says. “It all kind of melds together.”
Though graffiti was a passion in his teen years, Suerte eventually headed off to the Rhode Island School of Design to further his studies in the arts, majoring in Illustration. His interest in comic books and the psychedelic art of the 1960s came to the forefront during his college days, and his artistic versatility expanded.
It wasn’t until 1999 that Suerte finally ventured into the world of tattooing, when he was offered an apprenticeship at All Souls Tattooing where he studied under Jeff Ortega and Myke Maldonado. His experiences at All Souls became the inspiration for his comic book, Apprendiz, where he chronicles the ups and downs of being a tattoo apprentice. Suerte only got to work for two years at All Souls before Ortega decided to set sail for England to further his career. Suerte and his shop co-owner, Willy Paredes, were left with a tough decision.
“We never intended on owning a shop, but (Jeff) was like, ‘You guys can buy all this stuff from me and start your own shop, or you can go work for someone else,’” Suerte says. “So, we figured we’d take the shop over and control our own destinies and be our own bosses. Back then it was just us, but it's ballooned since then.”
And ballooned it has. Situated on Smith Street in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Tattoo has been in operation for over a decade, and they keep expanding, opening the latest iteration of the shop in a brand new space very recently. The shop houses eight artists who are constantly rotating and business is booming.
Suerte also has maintained the art gallery, Urban Folk Art nearby the shop, since taking over from All Souls. The gallery exhibits a variety of works from comic book art, to paintings, drawings, photography, and more. They pride themselves on showcasing up and coming artists who have yet to be discovered by the public at large, but are talented nonetheless.
If nothing else, his commitment to showcasing the best artists New York has to offer shows his deep love affair with Brooklyn. “I was always in the mindset of, I want to be in New York and I want to be an artist,” Suerte says. “I’m from Brooklyn, I’ve always lived here, and I always wanted to be here.”
Suerte doesn’t need to worry about that anymore now that he’s a fixture in not only the Brooklyn tattoo community, but the arts community as a whole.