Rafa Esparza

Occidental College’s 2016/17 Wanlass Artist in Residence

During the fall of 2016, Wanlass Artist in Residence Rafa Esparza led Manos de Obra: Bodies Making Los Angeles, an experimental interdisciplinary studio class as part of his two-semester residency entitled Manos de Obra: Rituals in Land at Occidental College.

The course was conducted in a series of immersive workshops and discussions led by invited artists living and working in Los Angeles. The course highlighted their labor and creative practices that realize works through a variety of approaches including art making, organizing, activism, interventions and protest. Throughout the course of the semester students looked at how cultural producers use their bodies and the landscape of Los Angeles as generative agents for ideas, actions, place making and collective organizing/building. Through workshops students experienced live performance, participated in body and movement based exercises, discussed, thought, and imagined the generative possibilities of their own bodies in space.

For more information, see our press release.

Over the course of the 2017 spring semester, Wanlass Artist in Residence Rafa Esparza created a collaborative site-specific installation on campus with the help of Oxy students and staff. From February 1 through April 20, the College’s Weingart Gallery served as both an exhibition and work space for Esparza, highlighting the process of art-making as the exhibition in and of itself. On April 20, Esparza’s 10-month residency at the College culminated in the opening of his temporary art installation on the campus grounds.

HERE is a site-specific installation on the Occidental campus inspired by Rafa Esparza's work and interactions with students and staff during his time as the College's Wanlass Artist in Residence. Beginning at Fiji Hill and placed in a delineating fashion in four campus locations (Fiji Hill, Weingart Patio, Hameetman Career Center Patio and the Olive Grove), the four original adobe sculptures have been collectively conceptualized by students, staff and Esparza.

View a map of the installation.

About the Artist:
Rafa Esparza received his BFA from UCLA and currently works in a variety of mediums, including installation, sculpture, drawing, painting and performance. His work was included in the Made in L.A. Biennial (2016) at the Hammer Museum; the MexiCali Biennial (2013) at the Vincent Price Art Museum; and in Native Strategies 3 at Human Resources, Los Angeles (2013). Esparza was awarded a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant (2015), a California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists (2014) and an Art Matters Grant (2014). His work is currently featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York.​