Commonwealth and Council

Frieze Los Angeles 2019

Beatriz Cortez and rafa esparza


In Aztec mythology, Xolotl was the god of fire and lightning, the canine twin brother of the powerful plumed serpent, Quetzalcoatl. Xolotl was also the god of monsters, the sick, and the deformed. For their project G.L.O.W. Greeting Land Outflowing Wormholes) at Frieze Los Angeles 2019, Beatriz Cortez and rafa esparza built a spaceship to transport Xolotl, the protector of those that are considered today as outsiders, as undefined, as nomads, as queer, to outer space and alternate dimensions. For Cortez and esparza, the manual labor they expend on their materials—steel for Cortez's spaceship and adobe for esparza's Xolotl sculpture and support—are integral to their circumvention of capitalist impulses to open up space for communal values. Xolotl is accompanied in his travels by a series of shields made of discarded industrial materials and a child’s backpack filled with dreams for the future. Xolotl's Time Travels offers new meaning to ancient concepts and carries precious gifts from Earth: fertilized soil, dormant seeds, organic metal, and a sense of generosity towards the unknown Other.

Beatriz Cortez is an artist and scholar who was born in El Salvador and has lived in the United States since 1989. Her work explores simultaneity – life in different temporalities and different versions of modernity – in relation to memory, war, and migration, as well as imagined possible futures. She has exhibited her work internationally, including at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Ballroom Marfa in Marfa, Texas; BANK Gallery in Shanghai, China; MARTE in El Salvador; Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo in San José, Costa Rica; and Centro Cultural Metropolitano in Quito, Ecuador. She has received the 2018 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Artists, the 2017 Artist Community Engagement Grant, and the 2016 California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists. She holds an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts, and Ph.D. in Latin American literature from Arizona State University. She teaches in the Department of Central American Studies at California State University, Northridge. Her solo exhibition Trinidad: Joy Station is currently on view at the Craft Contemporary Museum in Los Angeles.

rafa esparza is a multidisciplinary artist who was born and raised in Los Angeles. His work reveals his interests in history, personal narratives, and kinship, his own relationship to colonization and the disrupted genealogies that it produces. Using live performance as his main form of inquiry, esparza employs site-specificity, materiality, memory, and what he calls (non)documentation as primary tools to investigate and expose ideologies, power structures, and binary forms of identity that establish narratives, history, and social environments.eEsparza’s recent projects are grounded in laboring with land and adobe-making, a skill learned from his father, Ramón Esparza. In so doing, the artist invites Brown and Queer cultural producers to realize large-scale collective projects, gathering people together to build networks of support outside of traditional art spaces. esparza is a recipient of an Emerging Artist 2014 California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Arts, 2014 Art Matters grant, and 2015 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant, among others. He has performed in a variety of spaces, both public and private, throughout Los Angeles, and throughout the United States in art institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and Ballroom Marfa. His solo exhibition Staring at the Sun is currently on view at MASS MoCA in Massachusetts.