Dark, playful, irreverent and uniquely his own, the work of Jerónimo López Ramírez, better known as Dr. Lakra, is the subject of an exhibition currently on show at MATE – Museo Mario Testino. Dr. Lakra is one of the most exciting artists to have emerged from Mexico in recent years. With a wide ranging practice that encompasses mural painting, collage and sculpture, the artist is best-known for his drawing and painting on found images. These range from pulp posters of wrestlers to pin-up girls to postcards over which he draws using a rich vocabulary of symbolism and imagery.
‘I have a studio full of stuff and you can see all kinds of images around. I use all these things for inspiration,’ says the artist. His work is indelibly linked to his practice as a tattoo artist and this aesthetic runs through all of his work. Sexy and unsettling, Lakra blurs the lines between fine art and street culture. Of this dichotomy (that of tattoo vs. fine art) Dr. Lakra has said, ‘I’ve drawn all my life, sometimes on skin and sometimes on paper. But when I tattoo there is always interaction with the victim, and that puts restraints on the final result. The difference is that the paper doesn’t scream.’ With inanimate paper and sculpture he can be more ambitious with imagery, subject and scale.
Taking the erotic or the sentimental and filtering it through a lens of nostalgia – through his use of period found imagery – connecting subjects like voodoo and cinematic culture with his central theme of self-identity and Mexican and international cultural identity. The exhibition, and the first of the artist’s work in Peru, explores his warped and seductive vision of the world which is both specific to Mexico and wholly international. The exhibition encompasses site specific murals as well as sculpture and drawing. Testino commented, ‘I discovered Dr. Lakra through his gallery and the pieces of glamour magazines tattooed by him. When we asked him to do the exhibition I don’t know why, but I expected a lot of his tattoo work and was greatly surprised by all of the sculptures in the show. Dr. Lakra loves juxtapositions. The glamorous with the underworld, and in this show he puts them alongside Buddha and other figures, making all the different works blend into one. I love the ‘no limits’ approach, where everything can cohabit. I guess this approach is something that has always inspired me, as I live many different worlds together and appreciate someone else opening the frontiers for me as well.’
Born out of the exhibition is a collaboration between MATE founder Mario Testino and Dr. Lakra Claudia Schiffer, Paris, German Vogue, by Testino and Lakra, 2008/2016 which is part of a series of artist collaborations undertaken by Testino. Using an image the photographer took of Claudia Schiffer for German Vogue in 2008, the artist has overlaid it with monochrome devils and snakes that are at once comic and threatening. This iconic image of a modern icon is still recognizable but it has been subverted and changed into something familiar but darker. Of his treatment of the photograph, the artist says, ‘I didn’t want to do the typical tattoos so I tried to keep it simple and elegant using only silhouettes.’ Elegant and powerful it is. Twice charged with good voodoo by two artists.
Oscar Humphries for Mira Mira
Dr Lakra at MATE until 18.02.2017