Mexico City

Dr. Lakra

Eight pictures welcomed the visitor into this exhibition of the work of Jerónimo López, better known as Dr. Lakra. Black-and-white vintage pinup prints depicted nudes striking sexy poses without losing their naive, angelic faces. The artist used black pigment to draw over these images, rendering fantastic figures that interact with the women: Devilish male faces, birds, piglike dogs, skeletons, snakes, and a furry penis with hands and feet enter, coil, bite, touch, and play with the sacred, virginal skin of these goddesses. The explosive yet intimate representations of desire and longing contrasted strongly with the vibrant, baroque mural drawing in the next room, Untitled, 2009—the largest yet by the artist.

Occupying nearly the whole of the gallery space, the mural covered the walls and a few areas on the floor with a delirious, dreamlike vision of figures. Men’s and women’s faces, African ancestor figures, and images copied from album covers, vintage magazines, advertising, and pornographic romance novels as well as scientific, medical, and anthropological illustrations constructed a scene reminiscent of a film sequence. By emphasizing the spatial dimensions of the room, especially its corners, and letting the drawing spill over onto the floor, Dr. Lakra situated the spectator in the center of the room, as if in a living periscope.

This psychedelic work, with its clusters of images in which diverse actions take place simultaneously, uninhibited display of a personal psyche where emotions and desires are depicted through nude bodies, and encounters between the luminous and dark forces of nature (like a contemporary El Bosco drawing) was a true representation of the artist’s obsession with the images of pop culture, and it spoke eloquently of his interests as a collector. Toys, men’s magazines, Japanese comics, tattoos, and other objects, some found in the trash, have served as visual references and as canvases to work on, like the plastic dolls and stamps he has tattooed in the past. Indeed, the latter, together with graffiti, were his introduction to the art world. Known in Mexico as an excellent tattoo artist, Dr. Lakra has gone on to display his talent for drawing and design and his accuracy in beautiful lines and patterns that accentuate states of mind and body on surfaces of all kinds.

The energies contained in this mural were both threatening and vibrant. An endless stream of faces, uncanny shadows, twisted architectures, floating men clothed as ancient Greeks, bubbles, protruding tongues, black birds, a clock, a monstrous female figure whose mouth spat out one head after another while she protected her young, a robotlike baby, flowed through the mural interrupted only by short tracts of gray wall, neutral areas that served as passages to the next dimension presented. All types of bodies—human, animal, and supernatural—and their excesses (fluids, yearnings, anxieties, and affections) were violently juxtaposed in an open, endless multiplication of images that left one wondering what it all meant; there was no conclusion. The uncertainty this oeuvre generated was either seriously intimidating or highly stimulating.

Jessica Berlanga Taylor