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Dr. Lakra

Dr. Lakra (Diego Jerónimo López Ramírez) was born into a family of artists in Oaxaca, Mexico. His artistic career, like that of several of his contemporaries, began in the communal workshop, ’Taller de los viernes’ in Mexico City. Concurrently with this, Dr. Lakra involved himself in the numerous alternative subcultures that existed in and around the street market, El Chopo. His interest in the art of tattooing can also be traced back to this, and it is the integration of tattooing into other visual media that constitutes the artist’s essential hallmark.

In recent years, Dr. Lakra’s versatility has earned him international fame. His art often involves grotesque and profane modifications of existing pictures and objects. His motifs typically consist of kitsch pin-ups from erotic magazines dating from the 1950s together with underworld gang symbols. Graffiti and the aesthetics of caricature and cartoons also provide a formal basis for his work. Additionally, we encounter numerous references to art history and global folk art. In other words, it is characteristic for Dr. Lakra’s hybrid imagery to contain references to high as well as to popular culture.

His expression is often characterised by much humour and studied ‘exoticism’. But the visualisation of sex, violence, death, and the demonic also works as a socio-critical reflection on contemporary events. Moreover, Dr. Lakra’s life in his homeland is surrounded by considerable social unrest. The predominant drugs war, for example, tends to play an essential role in everyday life as well as in the general outlook on life.

The spectacular visualisation of the demonic is chiefly rooted in the mediaeval representations of the Dance of Death. Traditionally, this kind of imagery is believed to possess a socially levelling effect by emphasising that everyone is equal in the face of death. Dr. Lakra’s art serves as a specific reminder of this fact. Besides, Mexican culture has a long and vivid tradition for morbidity and symbols connected with death.

Dr. Lakra often includes the entire exhibition space as his stage setting. This happens partly as a natural extension of the Mexican tradition of mural painting as we know it from e.g. José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) and Diego Rivera (1886-1957). On other occasions, he mimes the presentation methods seen in ethnographic museums. In this way, he wants to begin a conceptual game involving the numerous meanings of art work: as an everyday object, an artefact, and a fetish at one and the same time.

In other words, the visual signals conveyed by Dr. Lakra are often ambiguous and paradoxical. Not only does he challenge the alienating western view of other cultures, he also manages to present it as a – more universal? – erotic or insatiable view. A view which, in the main, exists in the interaction taking place between work and audience. And all of it in an artistic context characterised by a peculiar combination of figurative realism and fantasy.

From Dr. Lakras studio, photography Dr. Lakra