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rafa, a man with blonde hair, brown skin, and a black mustache, looks sidelong at the camera. He wears a sea foam green shirt with a dark green collar.

rafa esparza

He // Him // His

Multidisciplinary Artist

Los Angeles, California

rafa esparza is a multidisciplinary artist who was born, raised, and currently lives in Los Angeles. Woven into Esparza’s bodies of work are his interests in history, personal narratives, and kinship. He is inspired by his own relationship to colonization and the disrupted genealogies that it produces. Using live performance as his main form of inquiry, he 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. His recent projects have evolved through experimental collaborative projects grounded in laboring with land vis-à-vis adobe brick-making, a skill learned from his father, Ramón Esparza. In so doing, the artist intends to divert institutional resources to invited Brown and Queer cultural producers to realize large-scale collective projects. In the process, he gathers people together to build networks of support outside of traditional art spaces. He is especially committed to working in the local geographies that are the Southwest, including Mexico and Latin America.

He is a recipient of an Emerging Artist 2014 California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Arts, a 2014 Art Matters grantee, and a 2015 recipient of a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant. He has performed in a variety of spaces, both public and private, throughout Los Angeles, including Elysian Park, the Los Angeles River, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Highways Performance Space, REDCAT, Human Resources, Vincent Price Art Museum, LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Esparza has also shown throughout the United States in art institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and Ballroom Marfa, and internationally at Oficina de Procesos, Mexicali, and El Museo del Chopo in CDMX.

Portrait photo by Stefan Ruiz.

Donor -This award was generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This artist page was last updated on: 07.08.2024

[ID: rafa is encased in a cement column from the waist down. He is wearing yellow work gloves and a protective facemask around his chin as he leans his face toward the sky.]

Performance view of bust: indestructible columns, 2019. Washington, DC. Photo by Natalia Mantini.

[ID: A number of men stand in line, naked from the waist up and holding their shirts and hats on their arms, while a hand from the right side of the panel sprays them with a cloudy substance from a bottle.]

Border Wash: Mexican immigrant laborers sprayed with DDT at processing center in Hidalgo, Texas-after Leonard Nadel, 1956, 2019. Acrylic, local dirt, horse dung, hay, Hoosic River water, chain-link fence, plywood on adobe panel. Photo by Kaelan Burkett; courtesy of MASS MoCA.

[ID: A woman in a bright red dress and matching lipstick smiles widely, surrounded by other people in a covered pedestrian boulevard.]

Performance view of singer San Cha at De la Calle, 2018. Organized by rafa esparza with ICA, Los Angeles. Santee Alley, Los Angeles. Photo by Fabian Guerrero