Commonwealth and Council

Art Basel 2020

rafa esparza, Eamon Ore-Giron, and Gala Porras-Kim


Commonwealth and Council reunites rafa esparza, Eamon Ore-Giron, and Gala Porras-Kim, who collaborated on esparza’s 2017 Whitney Biennial project. Their new work interrogates Indigenous aesthetics and contemporary cultural tropes and representations. 

rafa esparza’s paintings, rendered on adobe—the building material made of sundried earth used by Indigenous peoples of the Americas for millennia—center Brown subjects, confronting fraught histories of colonial violence and white supremacy. The work bears out the Indigenous relationship to land, unsettling ideas of individualistic property ownership in favor of collective modes of stewardship vis-à-vis the inherent qualities of adobe itself. As a building component, adobe is sourced from locally available raw materials, and produces zero toxic waste in its making. Commencing a new series of paintings for Art Basel 2020, esparza depicts his older brother in a nostalgic rendition of Star Shots, ubiquitous glamour photography studios in malls in the 1990s. A popular pastime for pre-Instagram self-representation and sociality among Los Angeles youth, particularly in Black and Brown communities, esparza’s adobe-backed version memorializes young lives lost to gang violence, the prison-industrial complex, and other forms of structural oppression. It is a refusal of erasure, a celebration of and mourning for those denied, and who perhaps never had access to, the mythical American Dream. 

Eamon Ore-Giron’s Infinite Regress series is a living heuristic document of his expanding approach to abstraction; it is an ongoing record of a precise but always evolving language of painting. An iterative body in which each entry subtly refers to and builds upon its predecessor, it manifests the eponymous philosophical concept, which describes a series of related elements in which each endlessly requires the justification of a preceding element. In short, it is a proposition that destabilizes notions of singular or fixed ways of knowing, and suggests the contingent or changing nature of knowledge. Ore-Giron sees the paintings as a (re)generative expression of his own experiences of cultural hybridity, Mesoamerican rituals and aesthetics,, and Western Modernism. His compositions variously recall Peruvian gold work, architecture, feathers, pendulums, and sunset vistas yet refuse the specificity of representation, allowing the viewer an analogous, associative response through a lived relationship with the paintings’ evocative forms and rhythms. 

Gala Porras-Kim, in her most recent body of work, addresses disruptions in the inherent ritual function of Mesoamerican objects currently housed in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Cambridge, MA. Originally tributes to the Mayan rain god Chaac, the artifacts were dredged from the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza, a naturally-occurring limestone pool considered by the Maya to be a gateway to the gods. Porras-Kim argues that, though the objects have been physically displaced, their devotional function endures. Practicing a sort of spiritual litigation, Porras-Kim advocates for the restoration of these objects to their submerged state so they may resume fulfilling their purpose. The drawings depict a selection of ritual tributes still in the collection of the Peabody, such as a human skull, broken figures, and jars, to be considered through their dryness, an integral part of museum conservation and antithetical to their bond with Chaac, which is facilitated through water. Porras-Kim asserts the objects’ life outside their contemporary role of the museum object as anthropological specimen or looted treasure. Similarly, two depictions of undeciphered Mesoamerican inscriptions propose novel ways of accessing meaning. Overlaid with reflective glass beads, the drawings suggest that with illumination comes understanding, embodying the framework of Porras-Kim’s investigations: that new conditions of seeing facilitate comprehension. 

Together, esparza, Ore-Giron, and Porras-Kim present a porous contemporaneity, riddled with portals to a complex global past and looking toward a transformative future-in-the-making. 

rafa esparza (b. 1981, Los Angeles; lives and works in Los Angeles) received a BFA from University of California, Los Angeles. esparza has had solo exhibitions and performances at Performance Space New York and the Ellipse, Washington, D.C. (2019); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018); ArtPace, San Antonio, TX (2018); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018); Atkinson Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA (2017); and Ballroom Marfa, TX (2017). Select group exhibitions were held at San Diego Art Institute, CA (2019); DiverseWorks, Houston, TX (2019); Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles (2019); GAMMA Galeria, Guadalajara, Mexico (2019); Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NV (2017); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); LA!ART, CA (2017); PARTICIPANT, INC., New York (2016); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); and Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena (2015). esparza is the recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant (2017), Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant (2015), California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Arts (2014), and Art Matters Foundation Grant (2014).  

Eamon Ore-Giron (b. 1973, Tucson, AZ; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) received an MFA from University of California, Los Angeles and BFA from San Francisco Art Institute. Ore-Giron has had solo exhibitions at Friends Indeed Gallery, San Francisco (2020); Pàramo, Guadalajara, Mexico (2020); Nina Johnson, Miami (2019); and LA><ART, Los Angeles (2015). Select group exhibitions were held at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA (2019); PEANA, Monterrey, Mexico (2018); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); Ballroom Marfa, TX (2017); Vincent Price Art Museum, Monterey Park, CA (2017); and OFF Biennale, Cairo, Egypt (2015). Ore-Giron is the recipient of the Stanford Presidential Residency on the Future of the Arts (2020); PAOS/Museo Taller Jose Clemente Orozco Residency, Guadalajara, Mexico (2017); Fellowship for Visual Artists, California Community Foundation (2013); 18th Street Arts Center Artist Lab Residency, Santa Monica, CA (2012); Headlands Center for the Arts Residency (2004); and Artadia Award (2001). 

Gala Porras-Kim (b. 1984, Bogota, Colombia; lives and works in Los Angeles) received an MFA from California Institute of the Arts and MA from University of California, Los Angeles in Latin American Studies. Porras-Kim has had solo projects at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2019); Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA (2018); Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2017); and LABOR, Mexico City (2017). Select group exhibitions were held at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2019, 2017); Ural Industrial Biennial, Ekaterinburg, Russia (2019); ParaSite, Hong Kong (2019); PinchukArtCentre, Kiev, Ukraine (2019); Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea (2017); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA (2017); and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016). She is the recipient of the Art Matters Grant (2019), Artadia Los Angeles Award (2017), the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant (2017), the Joan Mitchell Foundation Emerging Artist Grant (2016), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2015), Creative Capital Grant (2015), and the California Community Foundation Fellowship (2013). Porras-Kim was a 2019-20 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University, Cambridge, and will be the artist-in-residence at the Getty Research Institute (2020-22)