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Exhibition

Sitting on Chrome: Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, and Guadalupe Rosales

August 5, 2023–February 19, 2024
Floor 2

“Wonderfully unrushed, materially evocative meditation on lowrider aesthetics.–KQED

In this collaborative exhibition, artists Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, and Guadalupe Rosales engage the visual language of
lowriders and explore cruising as a practice of resistance and community visibility. From pinstriped, stylized exteriors to lush, upholstered interiors, these customized cars are modified over time by drivers, their families, and communities for the sake of joy and visual pleasure. Designed to be seen, they express individual and collective identities and transform public spaces.

Reflecting on their own early experiences cruising through the streets of Los Angeles, Ayala, esparza, and Rosales have transformed four Floor 2 galleries through vibrant, multisensory installations. Celebrating and unsettling the lowrider, the exhibition opens with a newly commissioned mural by all three artists, followed by immersive galleries featuring paintings, sculptures, photographs, archival materials, and a sound installation. Each space engages the senses to evoke the experience of lowriding while examining themes of memory, self-authored histories, queer experiences, issues of surveillance, and the relationship between humans and machines.

Related performances by rafa esparza will occur during the run of the exhibition.


Exhibition Preview

From left to right: Mario Ayala, Casa Sanchez, 2023; rafa esparza, Corpo RanfLA: Terra Cruiser, 2022; rafa esparza, Self Portrait, 2023 (installation view, Sitting on Chrome: Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, and Guadalupe Rosales, SFMOMA, 2023); photo: Don Ross
Background: Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, Guadalupe Rosales, Gravitron, 2023; foreground: Guadalupe Rosales, low & slow, 2023 (installation view, Sitting on Chrome: Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, and Guadalupe Rosales, SFMOMA, 2023); photo: Don Ross
Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, Guadalupe Rosales, Entre Mundos (Between Worlds), 2023 (detail); photo: Don Ross
Installation view, Sitting on Chrome: Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, and Guadalupe Rosales, SFMOMA, 2023; photo: Don Ross
Guadalupe Rosales, Drifting on a Memory (a dedication to Gypsy Rose), 2022 (detail); courtesy the artist; photo: Chad Redmon
Mario Ayala, Reunion, 2021; collection of Andrew McClintock; © Mario Ayala, courtesy the artist

Embark on a Trip to Los Angeles

In this short documentary film, experience behind-the-scenes footage of the artists’ studios while listening to their insights on how lowrider car culture and queer cruising come together in this immersive exhibition.

Generous support of Sitting on Chrome: Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, and Guadalupe Rosales is provided by Chara Schreyer and Gordon Freund, and Sonya Yu.

Additional support is provided by Jeffrey and Leslie Fischer Family Foundation and anonymous.

Sitting on Chrome Community Support is provided by Jennifer Creelman.

Exhibition production generously supported by Kvadrat.

Header: Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, Guadalupe Rosales, Entre Mundos (Between Worlds), 2023 (detail); photo: Don Ross