Ballroom Marfa Art Fund
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Visual Art

Tierra. Sangre. Oro.

25 Aug 201718 Mar 2018


Marfa, Texas


Rafa Esparza


Carmen Argote | Nao Bustamante | Beatriz Cortez | Timo Fahler | Eamon Ore-Giron | and Star Montana

Ballroom Marfa presented Tierra. Sangre. Oro., an exhibition envisioned by artist Rafa Esparza. The project included new installation, performance, and sculptural work from Esparza alongside collaborations and contributions from artists Carmen Argote, Nao Bustamante, Beatriz Cortez, Timo Fahler, Eamon Ore-Giron, and Star Montana.

Esparza’s work manifests primarily through performance and sculpture, in a territory where the two mediums combine and hybridize. The artist uses adobe brick-building as a process-centered site for personal, cultural, ecological, and political investigation.

In residence in Marfa from June through August 2017, Esparza produced new work and conceived of a site-specific installation particular to the landscape and cultural context of the Big Bend region and northern Mexico where adobe building is prevalent.

For the exhibition, Esparza transformed Ballroom’s architecture using the adobe bricks that are central to his work. While making these interventions, the artist explored, in his words, “the visibility of Brown people in Marfa.” Esparza worked with his father, who taught the artist how to make adobe, as well as with people from his community, Marfa Independent School District high school students, and local adobe craftsmen to produce bricks and install the project.

Esparza’s adobe architecture provided the ground for presentations by the artists he invited to join him in Marfa as he “expanded the idea of a Brown laboratory.” New and existing work was presented amidst structural additions to Ballroom’s facade, galleries, and courtyard, creating spaces for the artist’s “laboratories for dialoguing, thinking, working and making together with my peers.”

In his practice Esparza addresses and excavates the history of colonialism; labor and economic value scales; queer culture and masculinity; as well as personal and familial legacy. He sets traditional materials, inherited processes, and ephemeral choreographies up against institutional structures and the historical narratives of Western sculpture, land art, and performance. The exhibition was a continuation of Ballroom Marfa’s mission to commission internationally-relevant artworks and performances that respond to and engage with our community and environment.

Tierra. Sangre. Oro. was organized by Ballroom Marfa’s curator and interim director, Laura Copelin.

Artist Profile

Rafa Esparza

Rafa Esparza is a multidisciplinary artist who was born, raised, and is currently living in Los Angeles. Woven into Esparza’s bodies of work are his interest in history, personal narratives, and kinship. He is inspired by his own relationship to colonization and the disrupted genealogies that come forth as a result. Using live performance as his main form of inquiry, Esparza employs site-specificity, materiality, memory and (non)documentation as primary tools to interrogate and critique ideologies, power structures and binaries that problematize the “survival” process of historicized narratives and the environments wherein people are left to navigate and socialize. 

Esparza has performed in a variety of spaces including AIDS Project Los Angeles, Highways Performance Space, REDCAT, Human Resources, SOMArts, Vincent Price Museum, LACE and various public sites throughout Los Angeles. 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. Esparza was recently part of the 2016 Made in L.A. Biennial at the Hammer Museum and the 2017 Whitney Biennial.


Limited Editions

Rafa Esparza & Timo Fahler. TSO Hybrid, 2017. Adobe, Dyed Plaster, Hay. Limited edition of 10.

Eamon Ore-Giron. Talking Shit with Quetzalcoatl / I Like Mexico and Mexico Likes Me, 2017. Wool. 76 x 94 inches. Limited edition of 4.

Star Montana. Rafa, 2017 (left). Maria, 2017 (right). Archival Inkjet Print. 32 x 40 inches. Limited edition of 10 .

Installation Views