Art, Books June 19, 2009 By John Dickie
larka1 Dr. Lakra
Sin título / Untitled (prelude to sumer), 2005

lakra title2 Dr. Lakra

I first became friends with Dr. Lakra a few years ago when I went to his studio in Oaxaca to get a tattoo. Stepping inside, it was like walking into a baby devil’s playpen: there were toys and dolls and weird shit everywhere, stuff he used in his art. Books, paintings, postcards and stickers covered the walls. We cleared a space on the floor so he could get to work on my flesh.
     Once finished, when he refused payment, I gave him a couple of poster-size photos of mine instead for him to intervene on, knowing that was one of his preferred mediums. He’d spent years tattooing skin, why not tattoo paper? At first, he just did it for fun, but soon the scrapbook turned into a unique body of work which I wrote about for PLANET several years ago. Now, RM Editorial has published a book of one of his collections of magazine interventions, titled Health and Efficiency.
     With an all-black velvet cover and beautifully printed inside, Health and Efficiency is a sexy little book. The pieces are all derived from a pile of old nudist camp magazines he picked up in Brick Lane market in East London. In the original clippings nubile porcelain-white maidens pose puritanically next to ponds and lillies. But in Lakra’s versions they have sailor tattoos and get skewered by monochrome skeletons and mugwumps. On the surface, the tattoo-scratched images appear gaudy and comical, like doodles in a textbook. But if you engage them, the shapes and figures he inserts have a mythical underworld quality.

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