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Artist rafa esparza Wins Pérez Art Museum’s $50,000 Prize

The Pérez Art Museum Miami in Florida has given its 2022 Pérez Prize to Los Angeles–based artist rafa esparza. The award, which honors artistic achievement, comes with a $50,000 unrestricted cash grant and was presented to the artist over the weekend at the museum’s annual Art of the Party gala.

esparza is among the most closely watched artists working in the U.S. today, and is best-known both his large-scale installations made of adobe, a skill learned from his father Ramón. His work explores themes around memory, family, community, and various histories, and also includes collaborative elements. He frequently invites artists, primarily Brown and queer ones, to show their work alongside his. Among those to have done so are Beatriz Cortez, Eamon Ore-Giron, and Gala Porras-Kim.

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rafa esparza, building: a simulacrum of

Presentations such as these have been seen at various biennials, including the 2016 edition of Made in L.A. at the Hammer Museum and the 2017 Whitney Biennial. esparza has also had solo exhibitions at MASS MoCA in 2019 and Ballroom Marfa in 2017, and staged performances with the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles and Performance Space New York. In 2021, he was named an inaugural recipient of the U.S. Latinx Artist Fellowship grants, which gave $50,000 each to 15 artists. That same year, he also received a $50,000 grant from U.S. Artists in the visual arts category.

In an email, PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans said, “PAMM is delighted to honor rafa esparza as the recipient of the fourth annual Pérez Prize, an artist whose foundation is grounded in the same values as our institution, whose insightful art practice connects personal narrative with historical explorations of art and society.”

The Pérez Prize was first awarded in 2019 to Christina Quarles. Daniel Lind-Ramos and María Magdalena Campos-Pons were the second and third winners of the award, respectively.

In addition to awarding the Pérez Prize, PAMM also raised $800,000 for the museum’s art education programs. Sirmans added, “Our institution’s mission aims to encourage everyone to see art as an incentive for the exchange of ideas, and we could not imagine a better way to implement this belief than supporting education.”

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