Commonwealth and Council

rafa esparza

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rafa esparza (b. 1981, Los Angeles; lives and works in Los Angeles) is a multidisciplinary artist whose 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. esparza’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 the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant (2015), California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Arts (2014), and Art Matters Foundation grant (2014). Solo exhibitions have been held at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2019); ArtPace, San Antonio, TX (2018); Atkinson Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA (2017); Ballroom Marfa, TX (2017); Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, CA (2015); Bowtie Project, Los Angeles (2015); and Vincent Price Art Museum, Monterey Park, CA (2013). esparza has performed at art institutions including Performance Space New York and the Ellipse, Washington, D.C. (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); and Clockshop, Bowtie Project, Los Angeles (2014). Selected group shows 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); Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena (2015); and Human Resources, Los Angeles (2013).