The Institute of Contemporary Art gets down and dirty this spring with Mexican artist Jerónimo López Ramírez, who's better known as DR. LAKRA — or, as they might say in his home of Oaxaca, "Dr. Delinquent." For his fine art, this tattoo artist covers photos of women in vintage Mexican-magazine spreads and advertisements with tattoo-like drawings of spider webs, skulls, sad clowns, light bulbs, birds, snakes, naked vixens, knives, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. "Playful, naughty, and often intentionally vulgar," says the ICA, "his work challenges social norms by blurring cultural identities." In addition to his usual bad-boy cool drawings, the show (100 Northern Ave, Boston; April 14–September 6), which is billed as his "first solo exhibition in the US," is expected to offer a newly commissioned mural.
UNTITLED (CHOCOLATITOS) The ICA goes looking for trouble with Mexican artist Dr. Lakra.
That's just one of the highlights of a spring art season that ranges from twin titans of puppetry to sparkling photos of the Kennedys to new looks at ancient Mesoamerican art.
The golden oldies include "FIERY POOL: THE MAYA AND THE MYTHIC SEA" at the Peabody Essex Museum (161 Essex St, Salem; March 27–July 18), which assembles more than 90 works — from carved stone monuments to jade sculptures — to examine the often overlooked influence of the sea on Mayan cosmology, trade, and power. "PAINTED SONGS AND STORIES: CONTEMPORARY PARDHAN GOND ART FROM INDIA" at the Davis Museum (Wellesley College, 106 Central St, Wellesley; April 7–June 6) shows how a clan of Indian priests have adopted modern media to transform their traditional ritual arts into fresh depictions of natural and mythological landscapes. "ROMANTIC INTERLUDES: WOMEN IN FIRDAWSI'S SHAHNAMA" at the Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Ave, Boston; April 24–January 16) looks at depictions of women in art inspired by Abu'l Qasim Firdawsi's 1000-year-old poem, which has been called the "national epic" of Iran.
The two greatest and most influential puppeteers of the past century are Jim Henson (1936–1990) and Peter Schumann of Vermont's Bread and Puppet Theater, the latter a New England old master who's still active at 75. You can check them out in "JIM HENSON'S FANTASTIC WORLD," a 100-work Muppetastic retrospective at the National Heritage Museum (33 Marrett Road, Lexington; April 3–June 27), and "EXTRAORDINARY: PUPPETRY, STORYTELLING & SPIRIT," which features puppets by Bread and Puppet Theater, Ashley Bryan, Donald Saaf, and Julia Zanes, as well as traditional Indian shadow puppets, at the New Art Center (61 Washington Park, Newtonville; March 17–May 16).
"THE KENNEDYS: PORTRAIT OF A FAMILY" at the Peabody Essex Museum (161 Essex St, Salem; April 17–July 18) features John, Jackie, little Caroline, and baby John Jr. glamorously photographed by Richard Avedon in Florida on the eve of Kennedy's assuming the presidency in 1961. Meanwhile, the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University rounds up great photographers of tomorrow in "EXPOSURE: THE 15TH ANNUAL PRC JURIED EXHIBITION" (832 Comm Ave, Boston; April 23–June 20).
African-American sculptor CHAKAIA BOOKER — celebrated for abstract sculptures built from recycled tires that explore both complex textures and the nature of being black — gets a big solo survey at the DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum (51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln; May 15–August 29). And for more than two decades, KERRY JAMES MARSHALL has made riveting paintings about black America. Don't miss hearing him talk about it at Boston University's Morse Auditorium (602 Comm Ave, Boston) on April 8.