Rafa Esparza & Ron Athey in Conversation

15 Feb 2019
Sherry Lansing Theatre, Frieze Los Angeles
Paramount Pictures Studios
Los Angeles, CA 90038
United States

Rafa Esparza’s (b. 1981, Los Angeles) multifaceted, often collaborative practice involves durational performance and sculpture, and considers the impact of migration, colonization, and collective histories on the formation of identity and communities.

Ron Athey is an iconic figure in contemporary art and performance. In his frequently bloody portrayals of life, death, crisis, and fortitude in the time of AIDS, Athey calls into question the limits of artistic practice. These limits enable Athey to explore key themes including gender, sexuality, radical sex, queer activism, postpunk and industrial culture, tattooing and body modification, ritual, and religion.


Ron Athey, born December 1961, is a self-taught artist, who has been working in multiple expressions of live art since 1981. He grew up in the underground music scenes of southern California, exploring noise, body art, martyrology, BDSM, public sex and trance. These works were known as PE, later Ron Athey & Company. From 2009 Athey spent 6 years in London, living loving and making works based on automatism. On return, he is defiantly L.A.-based and identified. The last year has been profound, with new performance works at Performance Space NY, MOCA Tucson at the Biosphere 2, Broad and Volume at the Cathedral of Vibiana, and a co-curatorial production with Nacho Nava titled Dolores. Athey is represented in Los Angeles by Lisa Derrick Fine Arts.

Rafa Esparza is a multidisciplinary artist who was born, raised, and currently lives in Los Angeles. Woven into Esparza’s bodies of work are his interests in history, personal narratives, and kinship. He is inspired by his own relationship to colonization and the disrupted genealogies that it produces. Using live performance as his main form of inquiry, Esparza employs site-specificity, materiality, memory, and what he calls (non)documentation as primary tools to investigate and expose ideologies, power structures, and binary forms of identity that establish narratives, history, and social environments. Esparza’s recent projects have evolved through experimental collaborative projects grounded in laboring with land vis-à-vis adobe brick-making, a skill learned from his father, Ramón Esparza. In so doing, the artist intends to divert institutional resources to invited Brown and Queer cultural producers to realize large-scale collective projects. In the process, he gathers people together to build networks of support outside of traditional art spaces. He is especially committed to working in the local geographies that are the Southwest, including Mexico and Latin America.