presents the first U.S. solo exhibition of Dr. Lakra, a Mexico-based artist and world-renowned tattooist. In Dr. Lakras work, the idealized images of 1950s pin-up girls, wrestlers and Mexican businessmen are tattooed with drawings of demons, skulls, snakes and spiders. No surface escapes the artists peneverything from vintage magazines and Japanese prints to plastic cups and Kewpie dolls are covered with his provocative and macabre drawings. The work combines a diverse range of patterns and symbolssuch as Chicano, Maori, Thai and ancient Aztec imagerywith pop culture and erotica to create a tantalizing mix of life, death and desire. On view from April 14 to Sept. 6, Dr. Lakra presents over 60 works, including a new drawing that will cover an entire wall. The exhibition is organized by independent curator Pedro Alonzo with assistance from ICA Curatorial Associate Bridget Hanson.
Bold, playful, and always original, Dr. Lakras work crosses cultures, challenges social norms and explores individual and collective identity, says ICA Director Jill Medvedow. With nearly one-third of young people in the U.S. sporting a tattoo, Dr. Lakra offers unique perspective on our contemporary fascination with this art.
While Dr. Lakra is well-known for his work as a tattooist, he considers himself first and foremost a draftsman, says Alonzo. His influences embrace the rich history of illustration in Mexico, as well as comics, graphic novels, and pulp fiction. In his work, the iconic Day of the Dead images of Manuel Manilla and José Guadalupe Posada meet the overt sexuality of R. Crumb.
Dr. Lakra has traveled from California to Thailand to the Philippines to work with artists still practicing traditional tattooing techniques. His irreverent works explore the tensions between social structures and innate desires, the group and the individual, sacred and secular. Juxtapositions of sex and death, old and new abound, as grotesque creatures encircle seductive women and society figures bear the symbols of fierce modern-day gangs. Even the artists pseudonym, inspired by his habit of carrying tattoo equipment in a black doctors bag, is a clash of opposites: lakra, a Spanish colloquialism meaning delinquent, follows a title that commands respect.
I see my work, my tattoo work and other formats, as a mixture of different iconographies from different cultures and places, says Dr. Lakra. Im always trying to deal with this basic primal urge. Primitive instincts like sex, violence, graffiti, are all innate [to] human beings and not tied to one culture.
Born in Mexico in 1972, Jerónimo López Ramírez signs his work as Dr. Lakra, which loosely translates as Dr. Delinquent. He is the son of the Mexican-born painter, Francisco Toledo. Dr. Lakra studied with Gabriel Orozco in the late 1980s as part of a weekly workshop that also included Damian Ortega, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Gabriel Kuri. The artists work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Hammer Museum and the Walker Art Center, and has been featured in exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London (2005), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2007), among others. Dr. Lakra lives and works in Oaxaca, Mexico