Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
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Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
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Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
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Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
1301 PE
Ace Hotel DTLA
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Blum & Poe
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art
David Kordansky Gallery
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
in lieu
Karma, Los Angeles
Lorin Gallery DTLA
Lorin Gallery La Brea
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
New Low
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
r d f a
Rele Gallery LA
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Shulamit Nazarian
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
the Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Libraries/ Collections
Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
CalArts (Valencia, CA)
Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Research Library (Los Angeles, CA)
Marpha Foundation (Marpha, Nepal)
Maryland Institute College of Art, The Decker Library (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Emerging Leaders of Arts (Santa Barbara, CA)
Northwest Nazarene University (Nampa, ID)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Scholes Library (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego, CA)
Room Project (Detroit, MI)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, John M. Flaxman Library (Chicago, IL)
Skowhegan Archives (New York, NY)
Sotheby’s Institute of Art (New York, NY)
Telfair Museum (Savannah, GA)
The Baltimore Museum of Art Library & Archives (Baltimore, MD)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library (New York, NY)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
University of San Diego (San Diego, CA)
USC Fisher Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Interview with
rafa esparza

Leer en Español

Image courtesy of Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles / Mexico City. Photo: Fabian Guerrero.

At the recent Art Basel Miami, artist rafa esparza invited members of his Los Angeles community to mount and ride his body, having transmuted himself into a lowrider. For the performance, titled Corpo RanfLA: Terra Cruiser (2022), gold-plated casts of esparza’s forearms and feet, a beach cruiser bicycle frame, and a retrofitted 25-cent mechanical children’s ride were welded together. The artist inserted himself into the makeshift bike frame, back arched, belly down, arms extended, chin propped up. Four sets of glistening chrome feet fanned out behind him, webbed together by neon green painted aluminum. Baroque-style twisted handlebars rose out of esparza’s head like antlers ready to be grasped. esparza’s friend, artist Gabriela Ruiz, inserted a coin to start the bike. Wearing a pair of headphones, riders took turns privately listening to esparza’s voice as the bike bounced the both of them. Collaborative to its core, Terra Cruiser was realized with help from esparza’s artist community, including Ruiz, Victor Barragán, Karla Ekatherine Canseco, Fabian Guerrero, Mario Ayala, and Guadalupe Rosales.

Drawing from lowrider and cruising culture as well as Indigenous motifs, esparza’s lowrider cyborg imagines shapeshifting as a tool for transgressively animating the nonhuman. Terra Cruiser embodies what postcolonial feminist theorist Chéla Sandoval refers to as a “cyb[org] form of resistance,”1 in which the embrace of hybrid creatures becomes an effective method of refusal under postmodern cultural conditions that encourage conformity. Sandoval argues that “the colonized peoples of the Americas have already developed the cyborg skills required for survival under techno-human conditions as a requisite for survival under domination.”2 In an inherently queer union of animal and machine, both primordial and bionic, esparza’s lowrider utilizes cyborg skills to deconstruct traditional notions of the lowrider, the nonhuman, and the human.

Past works have seen esparza chipping his ensconced body out of a concrete pillar outside the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in L.A’s Chinatown (Bust. a meditation on freedom., 2015) and having his full body painted for 12 hours for the first iteration of the lowrider work (Corpo Ranfla, 2018). esparza is intimately familiar with physical and emotional shapeshifting and duress, adapting the embodied stakes of each of his performances to its site. This ability to adapt and shapeshift—qualities necessary for resistance—is evident in esparza’s many transformations of his body. Upon his return from Miami, I sat down with esparza at his Boyle Heights studio to discuss ideas of animacy, the nonhuman, and queer kin. And, as it turns out, the cyborgian has been a part of esparza’s practice all along.

stephanie mei huang: You have referred to your work as “lowrider armor”3 and described the joys of honing in your own self-presentation. Can you speak to this idea of arming yourself through adorning and how that might function in your daily life?

rafa esparza: Sure. That’s something that I think a lot about in terms of the relationships that queer people of color have with fashion, clothes, makeup, and accessories. I think all of these things are tools that allow us to express ourselves in a heteronormative world that enforces this gender binary. [When] I was talking about body armor, I was thinking about my relationship to fashion—the ways that I’ve fashioned myself, how and by whom I was taught how to carry my masculinity, and the ways that I choose to intervene in that. To me, [the way that] our communities have customized and built these cars feels so inherently queer…in terms of the choice of these very vibrant color combos that are dusted with shimmering metal flakes—oftentimes they have a rainbow-like reflection. Again, all of these things feel like the ways that accessories are used [in queer expression].

And armor, I think it’s something that also emboldens you and empowers you to just step out into the world—those decisions that we make every day that are literally how we choose to show ourselves to the world. It made so much sense for [the Terra Cruiser] to have that function—an armor that’s expressing a style and an aesthetic, but also very pragmatically, I’m turning myself into a car. So, how [do I] embody this machine and these aesthetics in a way that makes sense to me and my body and how I know it in different spaces and [especially] public spaces?

smh: In order to become the cyborg lowrider, there is a sense of morphing into another entity entirely. The ride requires your presence to animate it, yet there’s this balance between the fact that you are actually still when you are in it, but you’re still moving. I’m drawn to this tension between the animated and the still, human and nonhuman. In their book Animacies, Mel Y. Chen suggests that “queering is immanent to animate transgressions, violating proper intimacies (including between humans and nonhuman things).”4 How do you approach the nonhuman?

re: The more that I thought about how to configure my body in relationship to a form, I started to pay attention to what parts of a car (or a bike, in this case) my body [could] conform to. [I was] trying to push beyond things that felt very obvious in the first go-around. Like, what part of a human body becomes the windshield of a car? What part of the body becomes the tires or the hood or the trunk? It was this collaging of my body with silhouettes of different cars—I remember cutting up pictures of my body and rearranging them.

I was thinking about this relationship between human and machine and of course, a cyborg or a cyborgian narrative. [In] most, if not all, of the contemporary narratives that exist about cyborgs or dystopic features, there’s a sort of dependency on technology and machines that are used to enhance the human body. I started looking into a history of anthropomorphic images, where you see humans becoming animals and plants and inanimate organic objects… It informed how I wanted to move forward with this project.

I wanted to make [the sculpture] more about what I think is an Indigenous sensibility towards nature and animals. [I] wanted to think about this machine [and] the progenitors of these cars, [who] happen to be people that are in the U.S. that come from a diaspora from colonized countries. I was just attending to these “coincidences” of the images—a lot of [what] these cars are embellished with happen to be these very proud [images of] Indigenous histories, these kind of Aztec figures.

[What] if I take on this mission or this process of becoming a machine—what is at stake? Why do that? That question is what informs how the piece ends up existing. I want it to be more about learning about this machine, and literally, that’s [what] my performance practice is for me. It’s an embodied way of building a relationship to space, to people, to objects.

Photo: Star Montana.

Image courtesy of Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles / Mexico City. Photo: Fabian Guerrero.

smh: It’s interesting to think about the cyborg still needing other people…the cyborg as a relational being.

re: I feel like gathering my queer family around this performance made it so that I could kind of just allow myself to be part of this, like, machine that’s gonna give people rides. We built the frame as such that it could, when I’m not in it, still gesture toward a body. But when I’m in it, it actually needs someone to activate the machine. I have no way of powering it. So, having Karla there, having Gabriela there, just having my whole family there, and having them be the ones that are guiding people aboard this machine, brought intimacy into the work. I don’t know what that would’ve looked like otherwise.

smh: There’s also this both literal and metaphorical process of bottoming with the level of trust that is required in this piece. How did it feel to have members of your community ride you?

re: That felt almost like a given. Back when I was doing my undergrad work, there were pieces that were attempting to think about the language that we use to describe a type of engagement. “Fucking with my ancestors”—I remember that that idea, that phrase, was so present—never verbally or written or even explicitly expressed through a single artwork. But [it’s a] playful, sexual, and colloquial term that a lot of working-class POC use.

When you fuck with someone, it has so many meanings, right? You’re either fooling around with someone, you’re being playful with someone. You engage with someone in a respectful way. Like, “I don’t fuck with this person,” or “yes, I totally fuck with that, that’s really cool.” You know, there are different ways of saying this word that I loved to think about when I was thinking of how to engage with nonliving people—just thinking of a spirit, an essence, an energy that inspires thinking, that inspires images. How [can I] engage with those beings, those entities, those histories, those memories in a way that felt real to me and not so academic? And, [not] just, I guess, boring.

And so here, obviously growing with my practice and with these ideas and then growing within a queer community, I feel like this work embodies that same phrase. Really fucking with my community, fucking with my friends, fucking with the art world, you know? Fucking with them literally. Riding and being ridden has also very vast and similar connotations, right? Riding someone, or being ridden: Both of those things could be seen as either topping or bottoming. I wanted that to be part of this work. I wanted to intervene in the history of this male-dominated space of building cars, you know? I’ve had a very conflicting relationship to those spaces, in terms of my being queer.

smh: It can be a very macho space.

re: Yeah. Queer [people’s presence] felt very lacking [in car culture]. …We didn’t see ourselves explicitly [or safely] represented in these spaces. I wanted [the work] to be both [an embrace of] this lowrider thing and also [to] unsettle it at the same time. I have family members that build cars. I have family members that have cars that are part of lowrider car clubs. I wanted to bring into question the ways in which these cars are so celebrated and lauded in public spaces. And then how it might be the complete opposite for queer people in public spaces. And so, joining these two different bodies, an auto body and a queer body, within this lowrider ride that could actually be ridden by another person. What [could that] evoke?

Having my friends, having my community be the people that rode me was a way of supporting or participating in this conversation. There was also something about, for me, questioning the kind of public space that we were in—an art fair, that [is] very inherently already exclusive for my community by virtue of it being in Miami, but also [the fact that it is a] ticketed event that is very inaccessible for a lot of people in my community. So the invitation to ride this work was another very important aspect of the performance.

smh: I appreciate that about your work and the spaces I’ve seen your work in—there is this sense of inviting. It was really formative for me when I saw your show at Ballroom Marfa in 2018, to see the people that you invited to be a part of it. I think that Marfa is really different now, but it was just the first time I felt like a space in Marfa felt restored to its people—the majority of the people who live there. Whenever you have a solo opportunity, you are inviting other people in your community in.

re: There are words and functions of art that are turned into catchphrases that become very prevalent in terms of how a broader kind of art public talks about art. I am constantly trying [to] resist that legibility, even just in ways that, like, the word “community” has been so co-opted and overused.

There is something to me that is still really important about unsettling, like, notions of authorship and ownership. Museums and well-established art institutions have been brought to task in terms of how they think about inclusivity and diversity. At this point, as much as I know about museums, that is something that I’m probably not gonna see in my lifetime. It feels like it’s very slow. There are so many things that have to change.

The best thing that I could do is have my community participate in resources that I have and have access to spaces that I have access to. Also, [participating] in spaces that are forming themselves and [helping to] build spaces that are informed by an ethos and a culture that is not present in these traditional art spaces.…[When you participate in community, there is an ease] of being able to contextualize what you’re doing, literally build a discursive space [where] you kind of see yourself active in the world. All of those are things that could happen when you work together with people.

rafa esparza (b. 1981, Los Angeles) is a multidisciplinary L.A.-based artist whose work reveals his interests in history, personal narratives, kinship, and his own relationship to colonization and the disrupted genealogies that it produces. esparza’s recent projects are grounded in laboring with land and adobe-making, a skill learned from his father, Ramón Esparza. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2021); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2019); ArtPace, San Antonio, TX (2018); and Ballroom Marfa, TX (2017).

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 31.

rafa esparza, bust: indestructible columns Act I (performance view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artist, Performance Space New York, and Ballroom Marfa. Photo: Natalia Mantini.

Tierra. Sangre. Oro. (installation view) (2017). Image courtesy of the artists and Ballroom Marfa. Photo: Alex Marks.

rafa esparza, Adobe Ground for Hunting and Gathering and Carmen Argote, Hunting and Gathering (installation view) (both 2017). Adobe; Acrylic on muslin fabric and cardboard boxes. Image courtesy of the artists and Ballroom Marfa. Photo: Alex Marks.

  1. Chéla Sandoval, “Re-Entering Cyberspace: Sciences of Resistance,” Dispositio 19, no. 46 (1994): 77,
  2. Sandoval, 76.
  3. rafa esparza, “How rafa esparza transformed himself into a lowrider cyborg for Art Basel Miami,” Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2022,
  4. Mel Y. Chen, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Duke University Press, 2012), 11,

stephanie mei huang is an L.A.-based interdisciplinary artist. They use a diverse range of media and strategies, including film/video, writing, sculpture, and painting. They were a participant in the Whitney Independent Study program (2022) and received their MFA from the California Institute of the Arts (2020).

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