What a brick can do.
I met Rafa Esparza for the first time in the spring of 2015, in Los Angeles, the city where he grew up and still lives.
We met at the Bowtie, an 18-acre lot by the LA River belonging to the California State Parks Service that looks like nothing else I've seen before, definitely not like any park I've been in before. The Bowtie was the former site of a Southern Pacific Railroad train yard and maintenance facility. None of the built structures remain, only sparse concrete foundations, some paved roads surfacing among the weeds, and railroad tracks still engraved on the ground.
It's called the Bowtie because the knot made by the freeways intersecting nearby (the 5 and the 2) looks like a bow tie. The Bowtie is public: one can just raise the skinny steel gate, walk in, and wander around its desert landscape. Desert but not barren. The river, paved in 1938, has been the site of encounters that exceed the confines of certain institutions. Graffiti writers, furtive lovers, youth groups, and different socials gather and have gathered on the edges of that river, more or less (in)visible to the whiter public.
In the summer of 2014 Rafa started a year-long residency at the Bowtie, facilitated by Clockshop Gallery, a multifaceted arts organization that works for the intersection of cultural production, politics, and urban space. Rafa was one of the artists invited by Clockshop to locate their practice in the Bowtie, thinking about the history and specificity of the space and its public character. During this period he had made the Bowtie his studio, or mixed the ongoing concerns that fuel his practice with the sun, the water, and the dirt that preceded him by the river. What can be done with such a mixture? An army of bricks to transform realities.
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