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Sable Elyse Smith & Rafa Esparza : 15 Young LGBTQ Artists Driving Contemporary Art Forward

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Sable Elyse Smith
B. 1986, Los Angeles, California. Lives and works in New York City and Richmond, Virginia.

Do you believe your work responds to, or critiques, ideas of desensitization to violence and trauma?

No, I don’t think it’s about desensitization at all, or rather, that’s not the focus for me. Violence is sport for some people. Violence is built into the fabric of how certain structures that we are entrenched in operate. The violence that I focus on is also not the gratuitous images that flood the mind upon hearing that word. Yes, those are images that at times collectively we become desensitized to, but those are not the images I’m addressing. I’m addressing those images that are hard to see. Those words that actually bear daggers; a cement and grout work that is actually a “Black site.”

When did you first incorporate pop culture references into your work?

I would say probably from the beginning. It’s a rich material; a material that speaks to many audiences and one in which they are receiving information already. Some of those pop cultural references I use are music or music related and that’s always been an art/form/material that is incredibly important to me. I’m also interested in a type of index that explodes intellectual hierarchy.
Rafa Esparza
B. 1981, Los Angeles, California. Lives and works in Los Angeles.

What drives you to create adobe architecture within white cube institutions and art spaces?

Working with land and shaping it into building blocks has been a practice and process towards building a platform; a space and context for ideas, objects, and bodies that don’t necessarily subscribe to Eurocentric notions of artmaking. It’s a way of pushing away the architecture of white art spaces and looking inward instead towards a collective Brown collaborative experiment led by Brown artists in an earthen space that reflects us, our histories, and made literally out of land that has been the basis for colonization we’ve experienced.
The works on adobe evolved quite slowly from color field studies based on the adobe vernacular of my parents’ hometown in Durango, Mexico, to something suggestive of portraiture, and finally, they’ve arrived at a place that feels very exciting to me.

Can you tell us a bit about the work you created with Beatriz Cortez for Commonwealth & Council at Frieze Los Angeles?

We were inspired by the history of Laika, the dog who was sent to space in the Sputnik 2 in 1957 by the Soviet Union, paving the way for human space travel. We considered the sacrifice of the dog and wanted to pay homage to it by projecting our own dog into space but instead made out of the fertile land—the very foundation for life itself here on Earth. The dog was molded after a Xoloitzcuintli, a Mexican hairless dog. In ancient thought, the dog was mythologized as Xolotl, the god of fire and lightning, the canine twin brother of the powerful plumed serpent Quetzalcoatl. But Xolotl was also the god of monsters, the protector of the sick, the deformed, a protector of those we understand today as outsiders, as undefined, as queer.

LGBT and Art 7.jpg

LGBT and Art 8.jpg

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