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rafa esparza at Commonwealth and Council
March 11, 2021 - April 10, 2021(All times are in PDT)
Artist rafa esparza has been making adobe for years, often working with family or community members to create bricks that are used in sculptures and installations. Now, for his solo show at Commonwealth and Council in Koreatown, esparza elevates the material to the gallery wall, using it as a delicate canvas for painted portraits. The works feature several community figures, including artist-activists like Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors and poet Yosimar Reyes. Though the portraits are lovingly rendered, cracks in the pieces—with some chunks even falling to the ground—point to a delicate ephemerality and a connection to the earth. Floating throughout the gallery of sculptures from esparza’s ongoing series “cuauhtlikeepers,” in which the artist fashions birds out of used Nike Cortez shoes, a style that, despite being named after the Spanish colonizer, was also popular among Chicanx youth in the 1990s. As a whole, the exhibition reads like a tender love letter to the LA Latinx community that focuses on collaboration, visibility, and strength.
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Photo: rafa esparza, “keeping,” 2021. Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles. Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council. Photo: Ruben Diaz.