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Art Basel: L.A. lowrider style is reimagined by creative icons

This story is part of “Corpo RanfLA: Terra Cruiser,” a special collaboration between rafa esparza, Image magazine and Commonwealth and Council. Check out how the whole project came together. here.

The story begins in Elysian Park at night in 2018, when rafa Esparza transforms his body into a lowrider vehicle. The project was — as it often is for esparza — a collaborative one among friends. Mario Ayala highlighted his entire body with highlighter pink in the style the Gypsy Rose. A golden plaque reading “Brown persuasion,” designed by Tanya Melendez, hung from esparza’s behind. Elysian Park was the perfect place for Fabian Guerrero to document this transformation — a historic site of lowrider and gay cruising. It was the ideal location for esparza to explore lowrider car culture using a queer and feminine lens. He felt this was missing when he was growing-up in Los Angeles, zipping along Whittier Boulevard with his cousins. He called the performance “Corpo Ranfla.”

Fast-forward four years later, esparza returned to Elysian Park — this time, as a lowrider cyborg. Friends and family surrounded him, including esparza’s parents and sister, as well as artists, gallerists, and curators like Paulina Lara, Anita Herrera, Gabriela Ruiz, Maria Maea, and Franc Fernandez. They were celebrating esparza’s performance “Corpo RanfLA: Terra Cruiser,” the latest edition of his project, during which he will become the lowrider cyborg and invite people in his community to “ride” him at Art Basel Miami. Elysian saw esparza only showing a glimpse of his futurist armor. He wore a stunning chrome-plated arm. He wore a white, billowing dress designed by Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, the Mexican fashion designer whose clothes are like elaborate expressive sculptures and defy gender. Guadalupe Rosales and Karla Ekatherine Canseco, both of whom will be participating as “riders” for esparza’s performance, also wore Sánchez-Kane — Rosales in a black, striped suit, and Canseco in a pair of pants printed with faces that hold your gaze. Another of esparza’s friends, Timo Fahler, wore a signature Sánchez-Kane blouse with a large hole cut into the fabric, exposing where the heart lies. Estevan Oriol, legend, documented the designs as a tribute to the bold and tender spirit that day.

These photos show Oriol picking up where Guerrero left off last year. If the next chapter of “Corpo RanfLA,” captured in the place where it all began, feels from the future that’s because it is. esparza believes that community is the way forward. Sánchez-Kane and Oriol are the latest to join this cyborgian journey. They won’t be the last. esparza invited people riding dirt bikes and ATVs to participate in the shoot. In Miami, there’s no telling who might pull up. Slide through the fair and you’ll see. The community will be there with tickets in hand, waiting to take you on a ride.

Raffa Esparza has a chrome-plated hand that will be part of his performance during Art Basel Miami.

(Estevan Orriol / For The Times).

Guadalupe Rosales, Karla Ekatherine Canseco and rafa esparza wearing Bárbara Sánchez-Kane.

Guadalupe Rosales, Karla Ekatherine Canseco and rafa esparza wearing Bárbara Sánchez-Kane.

(Estevan Orriol / For The Times).

A black and white photo of artist Karla Ekatherine Canseco

Karla Ekatherine Canseco, one of the riders in “Corpo RanfLA: Terra Cruiser.”

(Estevan Olo / For The Times).

rafa esparza and Timo Fahler, posing in front of lowrider car

rafa esparza and Timo Fahler, both wearing Bárbara Sánchez-Kane.

(Estevan Orriol / For The Times).

rafa esparza with a lowrider car, lent by his friend Michael Romero.

Rafa Esparza poses with a lowrider vehicle, lent to him by Michael Romero.

(Estevan Orriol / For The Times).

rafa esparza with his parents and sister, Lupe.

Rafa esparza and his sister Lupe, with his parents.

(Estevan Orriol / For The Times).

rafa esparza and his father.

rafa esparza with his father.

(Estevan Orriol / For The Times).

rafa esparza and friends in Elysian Park

From left to right: Timo Fahler, Gabriela Ruiz, Anita Herrera, Karla Ekatherine Canseco, rafa esparza, Franc Fernandez, Maria Maea, Guadalupe Rosales, Paulina Lara.

(Estevan Orriol / For The Times).

Guadalupe Rosales and rafa esparza.

Guadalupe Rosales & rafa esparza

(Estevan Orriol / For The Times).

esparza and friends in Elysian Park

Elysian Park was the ideal location to interpret lowrider culture through a queer-feminine lens.

(Estevan Orriol / For The Times).

rafa esparza in the lowrider car with chrome-plated arm hanging out window

If the next chapter of “Corpo RanfLA,” captured in the place where it all began, feels from the future that’s because it is.

(Estevan Orriol / For The Times).

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