Monday, June 1, 2009

Health and Efficiency by Dr. Lakra

Dr. Lakra, Jeronimo Lopez Ramirez, is an artist from Mexico known for the embellishing of various surfaces ranging from magazine pin-ups to dolls to human skin. A tattoo artist by trade his series of irreverent etchings over images torn from vintage nudist magazines is now contained in a book called Health and Efficiency from Editorial RM from Mexico City.

The nudist magazines he used as the starting point for his art were purchased from an outdoor market in London. Cloaked in appreciation for nudist values, the upbeat tone of these soft-core mags is despoiled by his cast of devilish characters and surrealist fantasy.

Dr Lakra gives image to the transformation of man into beast or demon unlocked by a lapse of sexual repression. Demons that surround the women with lascivious craving are literally etched onto the page with tattoo needles and ink. Where as porn has a natural way of sneaking past critical evaluation and slipping into the id, Lakra's images by design depict the id in all of its drooling self-gratification.

Lakra turns the Eden-like gardens of the nudists into a post-apple opening of Pandora's box. The amphibians, serpents, bats and plethora of genitalia that escape turn the idyllic innocence into a gang-bang tinged with sado-masochism. Lakra pencils in tattoos of the tribal and prison variety on the women's bodies partly empowering them with a protective skin that seems to ward off the acts of rape and defilement.

These are violent images pierced with humor, the embellishment of the reproduction offers angry fantasy that borders into misogyny. Lakra's parade of creatures prey on the women while at the same time expose humiliating masturbatory desire. Many of his phantoms are left simply watching, unable to participate beyond launching their seed in from the margins.

Lending to the tradition of the depiction of death like Jose Guadalupe Posada or Manuel Manilla, Lakra's skeletons possess their senses and desires. These beings return to drink, eat, (fuck), taking part in earthly pleasures. The Kamasutra meets the Tijuana Bible.

Health and Efficiency (the name of the magazines the source material was gathered from) is covered in sensual black felt with Dr. Lakra written in a silver debossed flowing script. It gathers 41 of Lakra's guilty pleasures and although it invites reading in one sitting, it is better in small doses. Abraham Cruzvillegas, Lakra's partner in crime pens a fine introductory essay. If you aren't a Spanish speaker, be sure to order the English edition.

A precedence could be found by way of Dr Lakra's father who is the great Mexican artist from Oaxaca, Francisco Toledo. Toledo's own watercolors and drawings often feature a mix of man and nature with his own odd twist of sexuality and preoccupation with imaginative couplings.

In 2004 while walking down the street in Oaxaca with my wife I spotted the maestro himself approaching us on the same sidewalk. Shyly introducing myself in my broken Spanish, I mentioned we had just see an exhibition of his and bought the catalog. Being such a moment of synchronicity, he inscribed it to us before sliding back into the anonymity of the crowd where he seemed more comfortable. Francisco Toledo: Libreta de apuntes (Sketchbook) is a facsimile of one of his sketchbooks from New York in the 1980s (it even has a green Pearl Paint price sticker on the cover) published in 2003 by the Fondo de Cultura Economica and the Galeria Arvil.

Toledo's world is populated with a fantastic zoology of beings. Coyotes, turtles, crickets, fish, deer, rabbits become symbols of animism without shedding a bit of their horny nature. A deer screws a turtle who's head is kissing another within a doubly-penetrated woman. Others copulate like puzzle pieces finding a new form of hybrid species. Shocking and provocative, his seems to be a desire to twist traditional depictions of man and nature while creating new implied fables.

Hierarchal structures upset, man is not at the top of the pecking order but an equal among the smallest of beings. His animals possess sleek bodies of muscle and tone while his humans are obese and sluggish looking. His color palette earthy and liquid. This sketchbook, as expected, reveals intuitive action in combination with more fully realized works but all add to his forever morphing mythology.

Nicely produced except I would have liked a nicer paper choice, mine is an edition which comes housed in a slipcase which has an original work affixed to the cover. There is a regular edition without the limited slipcase.