Rubén Esparza: Fantasies & Fails: Collage Artworks 2015-2021
At Tom of Finland Art & Culture Festival
Second Home 1370 N St Andrews Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90028
December 4-5, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Rubén Esparza is an artist, activist, and independent curator exploring queer and Latinx histories, existential trauma, and the reconciliation of his heritage that of the colonizer and the colonized. Using analog materiality alongside complex experimental digital-driven artworks, Esparza creates sociopolitical commentary or homage to brownness and/or queerness.
The work featured here harkens back to his first art practice of collage making. As an awkward high school kid, Esparza locked himself in his bedroom cutting and pasting collage works from printed material, mostly stolen from libraries or given to him by kind librarians. Magazines included Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, Circus, and Playboy; his adolescent escapism from the housing projects: pulp of glam rock, teen and news magazines covering bloody American wars and societal ills. All the while daydreaming of a bohemian life as an artist moving to any big city; New York, Mexico City, Paris, or Los Angeles.
Most of his material these days is sourced from the slowly disappearing smut and glossy lifestyle magazines, picked up where he left off some 30 years later. His research into Queer Abstraction and Latin American architecture inform his latest works on paper. The bulk of the collages were created during the COVID-19 lockdown, serving as a meditative reprieve and a mandatory break from his other artmaking and curatorial practices. The artist digitally placed his artworks onto moneyed or bourgeois interiors sourced from the internet, continuing his edict of queering and brown-ing physical or virtual spaces, lending visual imaginings to potential collectors.
His most recent solo exhibition at the Tom of Finland Foundation featured artworks spanning over twenty-five years. Receptions hosted included performances by Sheree Rose, Ridge Gallagher, Oscar David Alvarez, Marval A Rex, Jamison Karon, and others, with exhibitions in Berlin, Chile, Mexico City, and New York.
Esparza’s curatorial work focuses primarily on the LGBT/Queer and POC communities. He is the founder and director of the Queer Biennial anchored in Los Angeles, with satellites in New York, Miami, Mexico, Paris, and Zurich. Plans are underway in realizing the fourth Queer Biennial iteration, postponed from 2020, titled Queer Biennial 4: Arenas: Esparza’s work is part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's permanent collections, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Santa Barbara Museum, Chicago National Museum of Mexican Art.
About Tom’s Foundation
In 1984, the nonprofit Tom of Finland Foundation (ToFF) was established by Durk Dehner and his friend Tom. As Tom had established worldwide recognition as the master of homoerotic art, the foundation’s original purpose was to preserve his vast catalog of work. Several years later the scope was widened to offer a safe haven for all erotic art in response to rampant discrimination against art that portrayed sexual behavior or generated a sexual response. Today ToFF continues in its efforts of educating the public as to the cultural merits of erotic art and in promoting healthier, more tolerant attitudes about sexuality.