Dr. Lakra’s Grand Canvas

Dr. Lakra’s art often appears in Juxtapoz magazine.

Dr. Lakra is not a real doctor. He is a tattoo artist and collector of classic porn. He is, of course, more than this. The cutting-edge magazine Juxtapoz often features his art. I met Dr. Lakra late one night last week in a warehouse across the main highway from the center of Oaxaca.

Dr. Lakra’s MACO mural, opening night, July 13, 2012, photo: KMc

The warehouse encounter was the second of Lakra’s two art openings within a week. The first was the inauguration of an enormous temporary mural at MACO, el Museo Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca. Packed with artists, journalists, and photographers, the MACO opening was so crowded I didn’t even realize Dr. Lakra was in attendance.

Dr. Lakra’s formal MACO opening showing Samurai section of his mural. Photo: KMc

The MACO mural, which he completed in a few weeks with three assistants, covered two high walls. It included a two-story illustration of a Japanese warrior tearing the face off an opponent, clearly appropriated from a Ukiyo-e print. There were monumental sepia-toned portraits of mid-20th century Mexican glamour girls. A troupe of black silhouettes danced along the foreground, bringing to mind Kara Walker’s work.  At sunset the shadows of the trees in MACO’s Patio C played across Lakra’s mural lending the artwork an eerie sense of motion.

Dr. Lakra's canvas mural. photo: KMc
Dr. Lakra’s warehouse mural on canvas, left panels. Photo: KMc
Dr. Lakra’s warehouse reception. Right panels in background.

The second opening, at the warehouse, was quite different. Dr. Lakra greeted everyone cordially, even gatecrashers like me. He wasn’t drinking, but offered us mescal and beer. A woman asked him if he had a bottle opener for her beer. Dr. Lakra took a plastic Gatorade bottle and wedged its orange plastic cap under the beer bottle cap. With a deft flick of the wrist he popped open the beer bottle. The Gatorade bottle was still sealed. Seems Dr. Lakra is a master of many arcane skills.

I was told this warehouse is the studio of another internationally known Oaxacan artist, Demian Flores.  The murals at MACO were painted directly on the walls. These murals filled two giant stretched canvases, one on each side of the room. Done in the same mix of sepia and gray washes, these images were more grotesque than the museum piece.

A gory detail from Dr Lakra’s canvas mural.

Bits of ancient maps and medical anomalies jostled against genies in bottles and high-heeled shoes. Dr. Lakra told me he and his crew had also completed this project quickly. I wondered if the opening wasn’t a tad premature. Some collage elements on the canvas, old duotone magazine photos, fluttered in the breeze each time the warehouse door swung open.

Dr. Lakra looking at his mural with Cesar Chavez. Photo: Kevin McCloskey

In 2007, Dr. Lakra contributed an artwork to my friends of the ASARO collective, a large cubist painting of a man tied to a chair, being tortured. I found his new work even more disturbing than that painting, but I expect this is his artistic intention. Bottom line: I may not like all his imagery, but I do like Dr. Lakra.

NOTE: A very short video of Dr. Lakra’s MACO mural can be seen here .

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