Dr. Lakra gained popularity as a tattooist in the 1990s but this popularity led to his frustration with the business of tattooing (although he still tattoos on occasion) and toward a different canvas. He tells the Boston Globe:
"People tattooing in Mexico were doing it with homemade machines. I went and got the stuff and built myself a machine, and then I
didn't know exactly how to use it. It was totally different. I had to
learn how to draw again with this machine. [...] I was working for two years in this shop--it was like McDonald's, we go
as fast as we can make it. I think one day I made, like, 25 tattoos in
one day, and I reached a point where I wasn't interested in doing tattoo
for a living, and I decided to do more painting."
His paintings, however, manifest his love of tattoo imagery, as seen in the works exhibited at ICA. The show's introduction makes a particular note of this: "Referencing diverse body art traditions from Chicano, Maori, Thai, and
Philippine cultures, Dr. Lakra layers spiders, skulls, crosses,
serpents, and devils over these existing images." The existing images they refer to are vintage prints of pin-up girls, luchadores,1940s Mexican businessmen, and Japanese sumo wrestlers. The predominant themes throughout the work: sex and death.
In describing the exhibit's commissioned wall mural, the Globe says it is "the raunchiest imagery...from which parents may wish to shield young children." They add:
"[the mural] oozes
impish devils, drawings of brains, and other internal organs, vampires,
piles of dung, tribal totems, and ugly-looking deep sea creatures. It
makes absolutely no sense, and it's rather wonderful.
The room also contains a series of
black-and-white vintage nudie photos with girls in hackneyed erotic
poses. Onto their skin the artist has drawn, in black silhouette,
taunting gremlins, snakes, pigs, skeletons, and phalluses. It's all done
with humor and verve, and unless you're feeling particularly prudish,
it's pretty innocuous."