“Queer Califas” | 4th November | LA

A Group Exhibition Featuring Multi-Generational LGBTQ Latinx Artists
Curated by Rubén Esparza

There is a thread that connects Latinx people. It is a strong soulful link, which is indelible. A lineage that carries the rhythm of varied cultures. Many are newcomers to this country cutting new paths. Some from centuries-long histories from both colonizer and the colonized—with Spanish and Portuguese surnames cloaking indigenous and African heritage.

Latino(a) art culture is not monolithic; there is not one story or one identity. “Latino(a) as a category encompasses many cultures, identities, origins, and histories with many subsets, in this case a queer Latinx perspective. Spanish and Portuguese are gendered languages, which means that every noun has a gender. While some nouns keep their gender when they become plural, others change based on the gender composition of a given group of people. Some members of Latin American communities claim this gendered language reinforces patriarchal and heterosexist norms.

Many Queer Latinx artists respond to the current pointed political moments or continue in their varied art practices moving beyond identity, place, or zeitgeist. A shared history connected through common language(s)—all taking a part in a queer cultural awakening with a surging desire to tell their stories. Time will tell how it weaves into the broader lineage of LGBTQ history.

The twenty-plus (multi-generational) Artists included in this exhibition, Queer Califas, express their artistry in real time—some with a fixed lens to the past and others’ sights set to the future.

Laura Aguilar offers candid portrayals of herself, her friends and family, and Queer Latinx communities. Using her nude body as an overt and courageous rebellion against the colonization of Latinx identities — racial, gendered, cultural and sexual. Her practice intuitively evolved over time as she struggled to negotiate and navigate her ethnicity and sexuality, her challenges with depression and auditory dyslexia, and the acceptance of her large body. Her photographs and videos are frequently political as well as personal, and traverse performative, feminist, and queer art genres.

Bens Cuevas‘ work is directly influenced by his HIV Positive status and queer, male-body. “I want to challenge viewers’ fears of HIV and help revive the queer culture lost to AIDS and gentrification,” Ben states. Exploration of identity, pop, and the Internet carries through into his most recent work, The Tweetables Series: Knit Text in 140 Characters or Less, merging the contemporary language and aesthetics of social media with the anachronistic softness of knitting and yarn, Ben adds, “Throughout its pluralities, I see my work as reflecting the condition of embodiment: exploring the intersections of the mind and body, what it means to have a body, to inhabit a body, to be a body incarnated in, and interacting with this world.”

Joey Terrill is a Los Angeles-based queer Chicano artist with over five decades of producing work including paintings, drawings and publications. Rooted in a commitment to social justice issues, Terrill’s work contests categories of Chicano and queer art and identity, consistently blurring the line between art, life, and activism.

Carolina Hicks creates as a means of coping with reality. She makes what she can from whatever items, moments, and spaces she collides against. Carolina is interested in decolonization of the self, acknowledging and healing from the different textures/scales of violence, and finding strength in vulnerability. Through her work, she aims to reshape her personal reality through emotional alchemy, or what she calls Pain Magic. Her form of resisting the terror of the white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy is by publicly mourning.

Rommy Torrico is an undocumented, brown, queer, non-binary migrant born in Iquique, Chile. They head a graphics company specializing in designs for print and web. The company is firmly rooted in the ideals of social justice. Creating work that is bold, concise and to the point, eliciting a visceral response. Rommy has been involved in the (im)migrant rights struggle for several years and infuse much of their work with the stories their community shares and their own experiences connected to identity, status, love, sadness, and home. Rommy is part of a grassroots initiative, the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project, which believes in the strength of our communities.

Rick Castro is a photographer known for his work focusing on fetish and desire. Castro’s sex positive imagery is darkly erotic, elegant, and at times, sinister. A powerful and imaginative figure that emerged in the Los Angeles underground during the late 80’s, Rick Castro was dubbed The Fetish King. His photographs are characterized by potent and visceral tableaux tinged with sadomasochism, leather and sexual pleasure. Rick Castro’s films are archived by UCLA Legacy Projects and his books and photographs are archived by the Alfred Kinsey Institute and the Tom Of Finland Foundation.

The work presented in Queer Califas, varies from formal paintings and drawings, to photography, to experimental work, including soft sculpture, impromptu performance, and culture mash-ups, all from the Queer Latinx perspective.

These artists hail from diverse communities across the United States and beyond, calling California home. The artists list includes: Laura Aguilar, Marcel Alcala, Maritza Amezcua, Enrique Castrejon, Rick Castro, Ben Cuevas, Gregorio Davila, Diego Eduardo, Cleonette Harris, Carolina Hicks aka SBTL CLNG, Rigo Maldonado, Roy Martinez aka Lambe Culo, Miguel Angel Reyes, Angelo Alessandro Rodarte, Manuel Rodrigues aka Sad Boy, Daniel “Chino” Rodriguez, Joey Terrill, Rommy Torrico, performance by El Sancha y Las Sirenas, and more.

RICK CASTRO, Asiento del Esquinero Numero Uno, 2015

Ruben Esparza is an artist and independent curator based in West Hollywood. Esparza’s practice spans painting, drawings and digital work, mixing it with elements of Conceptualism, ethnicity and Queer Culture. His curatorial work focuses on under-represented artists primarily in the queer and ethnic communities. His work is included as part of the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Santa Barbara Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, Illinois, among others. He has created events and curated exhibitions across the United States, Latin America and Europe. Ruben is the founder and Lead Curator of the Queer Biennial anchored in West Hollywood, New York, Mexico, Miami, Paris, and Zürich.

Opening Reception 6 to 9p

On view through 9th December
Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, 1 to 7p (and by appointment)



TOM in LA | Go to the theatre. Come to the party!

Finland’s Official Selection for Best Foreign Language Film
consideration at the 90th Academy Awards.

20th – 26th OCTOBER

Q&A Friday 7p: Actor Pekka Strang (Tom), and VP Tom of Finland Foundation S. R. Sharp
Q&A Saturday 7p: Dialogue writer Mark Alton Brown, and VP Tom of Finland Foundation S. R. Sharp

A TOM-themed Celebration of the Tom of Finland Movie
Come dressed as your favorite Tom of Finland c
Saturday, 9p-2a

The film has received acclaim in 30 countries
and now comes to Tom’s second home, Los Angeles!

Tom of Finland is the artist name of Finnish Touko Laaksonen (1920, Kaarina – 1991, Helsinki). He signed his erotic work “Tom” and when his drawings were first published in 1957, now world-famous “Tom of Finland” was born. “Touko Laaksonen” was kept for family and colleagues; both friends and fans have always simply called him “Tom”.

Tom shaped the fantasies of a generation of Gay men, influencing art and fashion before crossing over into the wider cultural consciousness. Dome Karukoski’s stirring biopic follows his life from the trenches of WWII and repressive Finnish society of the 1950s through his struggle to get his work published in California, where he and his art were finally embraced amid the sexual revolution of the 1970s.

Tom first visited the USA in 1978. With in that year, he had two solo exhibitions, one in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco. This trip to the States was worthwhile with his career taking a significant leap.

Tom needed someone to manage his business and Durk Dehner, who lived in Los Angeles and had hosted him on his first visit, turned out to be just this man: trustee, model, lover and business partner. Together they formed Tom of Finland Company, followed in 1984 by the nonprofit Tom of Finland Foundation in Echo Park.

Tom’s story is one of love, courage and perseverance, mirroring the Gay liberation movement for which his Leather-clad studs served as a defiant emblem.

Last year, Tom’s Los Angeles residence, the Tom of Finland House, TOM House, was honored with a Cultural-Historic Monument designation in Los Angeles. It was in his home, TOM House, that Tom got to be Tom 100% of the time and live the life he drew on paper.

Come to TOM’s party! You can win a copy of Rizzoli’s book.

Come to the Party! Experience Michael Mejia’s transformation of guys into living TOM drawings!

The night is hosted by
Marc Bellenger and Pete Karjalainen of Tom of Finland Foundation
Jeff Wilcox, Eagle LA Mr. Leather, Mr. L.A. Leather 2017