By Alejandra Carrillo
The Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College hosts alumnus Rafa Esparza’s, first solo exhibition, “HOY Space,” now through April 25.
Esparza’s exhibit displays casts of trees from Elysian Park and birds made out of Nike Cortez shoes along with spray-painted quotes on the walls.
He uses a quote from Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet to represent the theme behind his exhibit. The quote says “They spent their life doing nothing. They let intimacy fuse them.”
“I was interested in using the quote to describe a kind of passionate surrender to desire,” Esparza said.
The artist grew up in East Pasadena, but decided to start his college education at ELAC in 2000.
He initially started by studying graphic design along with Chicano and Chicana studies, but focused on his art more when he started taking drawing classes.
“My commitment to being an artist started here at ELAC,” Esparza said.
After transferring from ELAC to the University of California, Los Angeles, Jones graduated with a bachelor’s in fine arts in 2011, Esparaza feels like this exhibition has brought him back to home.
At VPAM, Esparza made his sculptures off of trees precisely from Elysian Park because he was really interested in the way the trees formed intimate spaces in the park.
In November of 2012, he did a show at Elysian Park, “STILL, Elysian Park,” where he dug himself in the dirt from the waist down while blowing up clear balloons.
This performance taught him how important it is to reaching specific audiences that often know about his works but do not always have the opportunity to see it unfold.
Not too far from Elysian Park is Echo Park, where the idea of creating “love birds” made out of Nike Cortez shoes came from.
The birds became a reference of gay presence and cholo culture that co-existed in the 90s in that area and memorialize gay Latino bars that are no longer there.
Esparza said that when he was approached with the opportunity to have a gallery at the VPAM, there would be nothing better than to make it in a way to making his work more accessible.
Before the gallery ends, Esparza said viewers should prepare for some additions to come that will incorporate more art from the outside.
As an artist, Esparza hopes to expand his art out into the public and work in sites that privilege the audience.
“What’s great about being a self-producing artist is that I have to find ways to make art interesting and accessible without having to wait for opportunities,” Esparza said.
Esparza’s had his art shown at several places such as Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, REDCAT and Human Resources.
Esparza is proud of all of his art projects an accomplishments.
“There is value in accomplishing something, but there is also value in failing,” Esparza said.