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

Sitting on Chrome: Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, and Guadalupe Rosales is a collaborative exhibition delving into the influence of lowrider car culture on collective identities and public spaces, through an orchestration of various artistic mediums, such as paintings, sculptures, photographs, and a sound installation. Throughout the exhibition on SFMOMA’s second floor, visitors can experience multisensory installations reflecting on lowrider aesthetics and community practices.

The gallery has been transformed into immersive spaces incorporating Sahco’s upholstery textiles Balboa, Cuba and Avalon 2. The newly commissioned mural, sculptures, and upholstered interiors evoke the sensation of cruising while exploring profound themes like memory, identity, queer experiences, and the evolving relationship between humanity and technology. Mario Ayala, rafa esparza, and Guadalupe Rosales celebrate and challenge lowrider culture, while shining a spotlight on the communities that have established this cultural practice to create spaces for individual and collective expression.

Ayala’s canvases are intricate layers, rich with symbols drawn from art history and his personal journey, embedded with references ranging from Diego Rivera murals to Art Laboe, the radio DJ who coined the term “oldies but goodies”. Rosales champions community-generated archival projects while rafa esparza, an institutional figure in the performative art world, has long been involved with the queer Latinx scene around Los Angeles. At the core of this collaborative exhibition lies the exploration of the "hybridity of languages and histories" that shape the unique practices of these three artists.

151 Third St
San Francisco, CA 94103

August 5, 2023 – February 19, 2024

Monday –Tuesday, 10 am – 5 pm
Wednesday, closed
Thursday, 1 pm – 8 pm
Friday – Sunday, 10 am –5 pm

About Mario Ayala

Mario Ayala (b. 1991, Los Angeles) reimagines a contemporary landscape where identity, observation, and the presence of material fact play equal roles. In his paintings, Ayala brings together figures and forms drawn from every corner of his experience living on the West Coast. Ayala’s work lends interest in traditions and techniques with strong visual ties to California, such as muralism, tattooing, and industrial techniques used in automobile painting and commercial signage. Ayala’s influences also extend into postwar art historical movements such as the Cool School of Los Angeles and Bay Area Funk art. Ayala’s highly personal, often surreal, tableaux are vivid representations of the way in which images course through the world, carrying with them fragments of the past, present, and a future still in formation. His creations live as collectively inspired documents that reflect issues, energies, and aesthetics alive in Mexican American, Latin, and Brown communities throughout the region. Ayala’s sculptures, site-specific works, and collaborations embody his capacity to envision the local and the global as interwoven phenomena. Like his paintings, they locate surprising—and even unsettling—moments of cohesion in a world defined by multiplicity and rapid, ever-changing flux.

Ayala has been the subject of solo and two-person exhibitions at Jeffrey Deitch, New York (2022) and Ever Gold [Projects], San Francisco (2021). Recent group exhibitions include Hot Concrete: LA to HK, K11 Musea, Hong Kong (2022); Shattered Glass, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles (2021); and Made in L.A. 2020: a version, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2020). His work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and the Aïshti Foundation, Beirut. Ayala lives and works in Los Angeles.

About rafa esparza

rafa esparza (b. 1981, Los Angeles; lives and works in Los Angeles) received a BA from University of California, Los Angeles (2011). Solo exhibitions have been held at Artists Space, New York (2023); Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2021); MASS MoCA, North Adams (2019); ArtPace, San Antonio (2018); and Ballroom Marfa (2017). Selected group exhibitions have been held at Commonwealth and Council, Mexico City (2022); Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson (2022); Moody Center for the Arts, Rice University, Houston (2020); San Diego Art Institute (2019); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016). esparza is a recipient of a Pérez Prize (2022), Latinx Artist Fellowship (2021), Lucas Artist Fellowship (2020), Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2017), Art Matters Foundation Grant (2014), and California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists (2014). He has participated in residencies at Artpace San Antonio (2018) and Wanlass Artist in Residence, OXY ARTS, Los Angeles (2016).

About Guadalupe Rosales

Guadalupe Rosales (b.1980, Los Angeles; lives and works in Los Angeles) is a multidisciplinary artist and educator best known for her community generated archival projects, “Veteranas and Rucas” and “Map Pointz,” found on social media. Rosales received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2021); Dallas Museum of Art (2021); Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City (2020); Gordon Parks Foundation, NY (2019); and Aperture Foundation, NY (2018). Rosales has participated in group exhibitions at Whitney Museum of American Art, NY (2022); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2021); The Kitchen, NY (2019); and Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha (2017). Rosales is the recipient of the United States Artists Fellowship (2020), Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2019), and Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant (2019), and has been in residence at Denniston Hill, NY; PAOS/Museo Taller Jose Clemente, Guadalajara (2020); Main Museum, Los Angeles (2018); and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2017). Her forthcoming book, EAST OF THE RIVER, from which this essay was taken/adapted, will be published by One World in October 2024.


The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the United States and a thriving cultural center for the Bay Area. Their remarkable collection of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design, and media arts, is housed in an LEED Gold-certified building designed by the global architects Snøhetta and Mario Botta. In addition to the seven gallery floors, SFMOMA currently offers more than 62,000 square feet of free, art-filled public space open to all.

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