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KOZO

How KOZO’s Practice Remains Rooted in Emotion, History, and Storytelling

The Israel-born, New York-based artist shares a look into his world of fine art and tattooing.

A Start in Art to a Tattoo Artist

Eden Kozokaro, known to art patrons and tattoo lovers alike as his moniker “KOZO,” has always been drawn to art. With a graphic designer and sculpturist mother, he grew up in Israel surrounded by the creative flow experimentation fostered. During his younger years, he was encouraged to take opportunities and explore different mediums and materials, which led to an adolescent practice of drawing and painting since kindergarten. “I was always the kid reading and drawing comic books in the corner while everyone else was playing sports,” KOZO recently shared with Whitewall

KOZO.

Courtesy of KOZO.

Years later, he studied comic book art with Uri Fink—a prominent Israeli comic book artist and writer—before taking classical art history and method classes throughout his teenage years. “These largely influenced my career as an artist because they allowed me to perfect my technique both on paper and skin,” added KOZO of his art-centric coursework. 

When he was 17 years old, his interest in art then led to an acquisition—neither a painting nor a print, but a tattoo machine from a seller on eBay. Rather than solely studying and sketching his own work on paper, he decided to transform his inspiration into a new creative output and tattoo his first clients, close friends, in his bedroom. 

Art Inspiration KOZO’s Studio Practice

“We decided to split the cost of one and got a 200 dollar one off of eBay,” KOZO explained of his early days tattooing, influenced partially by the suggestion of a friend. “I then became a tattoo fanatic, and it became all I was interested in doing. I got hooked. Initially, I was just experimenting with friends at home, but I later started working in a studio.”

KOZO

Courtesy of KOZO.

This amalgamation of training, schooling, and tried-and-true practice has since led KOZO from Israel to New York City in 2020 to sharpen his skills at the sought-after Bang Bang tatoo studio. It has also led to the artist’s current creative style, distinct and unique for its surreal aesthetic that combines imagery from ancient and classic art with modern-day images like Marvel characters and Pop culture figures. Inspired by the pictures, graphics, and inspirational content from movies, paintings, and more, the work of KOZO says as much about the person it’s on than of the work itself. It mirrors and embodies a bridge of time; a blend of feelings, provoking thought, confidence, and personal style. 

KOZO shared with Whitewall how his recognizable work is rooted in emotion and storytelling, and how its evolution into other industries is on the horizon. 

KOZO

Courtesy of KOZO.

KOZO Creates with Perspective in Mind

WHITEWALL: Your aesthetic has a specific mood to it. How would you describe the feel of your work?

EDEN KOZOKARO: I mainly try to create work that makes the past and present interact with each other; ones that will uplift the soul and give an interesting, new perspective on things. I like to find subjects that have an unexpected juxtaposition with one another that brings surprise and delight to the viewer.

WW: One main distinction in your work is the ability to move from canvas to skin—from large-scale to small-scale. Does that change your creative process?

EK: I don’t differentiate between canvas and human skin. I treat it the same way. The art, for me, should be thought-provoking. A work of art affects the energy in the room, the same way a tattoo affects the body of the tattooed person and boosts their confidence. I think that a good artist should be able to move between different mediums and still leave a unique fingerprint, so the creative process for me is similar. I like to form an emotional connection with my subject, and come up with the words that it invokes, and these stay with me throughout the process.

KOZO

Courtesy of KOZO.

Tattoos that Tells Stories by KOZO

WW: How do you think about art when it’s permanent on your body versus something you can enjoy from afar—like a photograph hanging on your wall, or a painting in a gallery?

EK: I think that art—on skin or wall, or at home or in a gallery setting—should be pleasing to watch, whether from a technical standpoint or its aesthetic look. Regardless of the medium or permanence, the process is the same. It’s all about storytelling. 

WW: What do you aim to communicate with your work?

EK: Timeless elegance that is thought-provoking and interesting to look at. An intersection of past and present, and a way to connect cultures and people.  

WW: How do you envision your practice expanding or evolving in new ways? 

EK: I see my work with tattoo needles expanding beyond skin and paper to sculptures, fashion, and more. I look forward to embarking on interesting collaborations across industries—from fashion and music to fine art and beyond. I am also working on a new series based on nostalgia. I am combining toys from the 1990s, Marvel, and classical Greek sculpture. I want to capture emotion from several different eras—the old world with the modern world, while calling back to childhood. 

KOZO

Courtesy of KOZO.

A Relationship with Art

WW: What are you personally drawn to art-wise?

EK: I am a huge fan of classical oil paintings, and especially admire artists such as Jacques-Louis David, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt. This period in art history mesmerizes me because it is so different from that of today. The social-media age requires artists to create new works at an unprecedented pace. 

WW: Where can we see or experience your work now?

EK: You can see my work at galleries across the U.S. and Europe and get a tattoo in my private studio, which will open later this year. I am ever-evolving as an artist and hope to expand my work and apply my craft across different industries that I am passionate about, such as fashion, music, furniture design, murals, and maybe even architecture.

KOZO

Courtesy of KOZO.

WW: What are you looking forward to in/about 2024?

EK: I look forward to launching my sculpture series, having my first art exhibition event, and being a part of unique collaborations with brands. I am also looking forward to some of my aforementioned series, such as combining toys with classical art, and am excited to begin expanding into more industries with my artwork. 

KOZO

Courtesy of KOZO.

SAME AS TODAY

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Kelly Wearstler

THE WINTER EXPERIENCE ISSUE
2023

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The Parisian hotspot Silencio, originally designed by David Lynch with an outpost in Ibiza, adds New York City to its roster.
At D.D.D.D., artist’s Kate Liebman solo show of now work, “Hopscotch,” is on view now through February 19.
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