INTERVIEW BY BERNARDO LOYOLA
Sin título/Untitled (Vuelven los demonios), 2006, ink on tracing paper, 35.43 x 24.02 inches, courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City.
Vice: Where did you get the name Dr. Lakra? What kind of doctor are you?
Dr. Lakra: When I started tattooing around 1991, I would always carry around a doctor’s briefcase, and someone gave me that nickname—I’m a lakra doctor, the kind that gives people lakras. Look it up in the dictionary. [Lakra is a play on lacra, which refers to a blemish, sore, scar, or laceration from a wound. A lacra is also a colloquialism to describe a depraved or socially disgraceful person or group of individuals. So there.]
Do you think of yourself more as a tattoo artist or a painter?
I’ve drawn all my life, sometimes on skin, sometimes on paper. But when I tattoo, there’s always an interaction with the victim, and that puts restrictions on the final results. The difference is that the paper doesn’t scream.
I heard that about 15 years ago Ed Hardy gave you a tattoo on the chest.
Yes, he’s done three pieces on me. A Christ on my chest, a pirate girl on my arm, and a prawn. And about eight years ago I tattooed a Quetzalcoatl [Aztec feathered snake] on him when he first came to Mexico.
Just to be clear, it’s a Christ face with demons dancing around and peeing all over his face, correct?
A friend of mine saw you a few days ago at the London Tattoo Convention.
Yes, I was tattooing over there.
Did you get any new tattoos?
I got, like, five new ones.
I see two main styles in your graphic work. You make these pieces where you “enhance” or modify old prints from the 50s and 60s, tattooing pinup girls and wrestlers with spiders, skulls, and demons, and then you make these big drawings and paintings like the ones we are printing in the magazine.
Well, my work is more than that. There are also objects, collages, and many kinds of drawings in different mediums. The “enhanced” prints are the best known, I guess, but there’s more than that. In some of my work, I start with a predetermined base and in others I start with blank paper. That has to do with the work I used to do before becoming a tattoo artist.
In some of your pieces, each drawing seems like it was made by a different artist. Do you base these images on preexisting illustrations and photos?
In a lot of my work, including the pinup pieces, there are different sources of iconography, and you can read different discourses in them. The larger pieces (like the ones printed here) are more like collages, and often the images in them are very similar to the original sources. I like to play with different styles and qualities of drawing and I think the composition is what gives them a new meaning.
In all your work, I see a constant juxtaposition of sex and violence, the aesthetic and the grotesque, and, in a way, the new and the old.
I’ve always been interested in these themes. These are raw, universal feelings. In one way or another, the noncivilized human, the nonrefined, the primitive, is always being repressed, in a way that’s almost criminal. I think that through these themes you can define the essence of culture.
What is it that attracts you to Mexican design and iconography from the 50s?
It’s not only the 50s or Mexico that I’m attracted to. It’s simply a fascination with the way things were done before. For example, in the case of pornography, I like how they used to leave more things up to people’s imagination. I like how the most important things became secondary.
Are there advantages or disadvantages of working in a city like Oaxaca, where you live, versus working in Mexico City?
Mexico City is way too chaotic and there are too many distractions for me. In any case, I can work from anywhere.
What are you working on these days?
Murals in Monterrey, in Glasgow, at the US-Mexico border, and in Mexico City.
Untitled (Alma), 2007, gouache, acrylic, and watercolor on Japanese paper, 76.38 x 73.82 inches, courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City.
Sin título / Untitled (solid sex lovie doll), 2007 Gouache, acrylic, watercolor on Japanese paper 189 x 242.5 cm (74.41 x 95.47 inches) courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, México D.F.
Sin título / Untitled (Acapulco), 2005 Ink on tracing paper 45 x 60 cm (17.72 x 23.62 inches) courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, México D.F.