the underpinning

the underpinning
Rodrigo Valenzuela

December 9, 2023 – March 24, 2024
Los Angeles State Historic Park

the underpinning, a Clockshop public art commission by artist Rodrigo Valenzuela, serves as both a sculptural installation and a stage for public programming in Los Angeles State Historic Park. Mimicking the foundation of a home, this structure is informed by the standardized government housing of the artist’s childhood in Chile and the site’s proximity to William Mead Homes, a city-operated public housing project.

Situated on contested public land that serves immigrant and working-class neighborhoods, the underpinning reflects on the precarity of home while contemplating modularity and possibility in its construction. It also assumes overlapping temporalities, blurring between a stage for performance, an unfinished house, and a sculpture. With multiple viewing and entry points, the installation renders indistinguishable the interiority and exteriority of a home to disrupt the distinctions between public and private property, and modes of ownership.

Through the manual processes of fabrication using techniques acquired during his tenure as a construction worker, Valenzuela makes visible the presence of the worker, the unseen laborer, that undergirds the dynamics of class consciousness in this project. The bas-reliefs of the foundation are composite references to ancient and recent histories and imagined futuristic civilizations. Modular canvas partitions embedded throughout the foundation reconfigure the structure for each programmatic activation, mimetic to a living home always in progress. Valenzuela demarcates a territory undefined by linear time or spatial designation for the viewer’s interpretation of home and belonging.

the underpinning interrogates the social aspects of our built environments through programming that traces architectural histories of the working class and examines contemporary tensions between affordable housing and public, green space in Los Angeles.

Download the underpinning exhibition guide, primer and The Community Pact: Neighbors Resisting Gentrification under Resources below.

Download Resources Here


Download the exhibition guide in English, Spanish or Chinese.

As a resource we offer this primer on some of the histories of urban planning in Los Angeles that shape our current housing crisis, in which decades of racist policies deny power to poor and working-class BIPOC communities and disconnect us from our natural environment and each other.

Download the Informational Guide in EnglishSpanish or Chinese.

This Community Pact can serve as a starting point for neighbors and business owners in gentrifying neighborhoods to become active community members fighting for positive change in our communities.

Download This Community Pact here.

Listen to the conversation with Theresa Hwang, Molly Rysman, and Sissy Trinh


In January, park-goers joined Theresa Hwang, Molly Rysman, and Sissy Trinh in an illuminating conversation that activated ‘the underpinning,’ in Los Angeles State Historic Park through an exploration of urban planning grounded in the legacies of Chinatown and the surrounding neighborhoods. The speakers delved into the current landscape of housing in Los Angeles, drawing connections between systems of power and harm, the segregationist histories of land use, and the negotiations made by communities and policymakers when envisioning cultural infrastructures that reflect the identity and center the wellbeing of residents.

Listen to a Spanish led tour of 'the underpinning' with Rodrigo Valenzuela

On Saturday, February 24, artist Rodrigo Valenzuela led a walk-through of ‘the underpinning,’ where he and attendees cultivated a bilingual dialogue, reflecting on the ways we relate to our built environments. Valenzuela explored the shared and divergent histories of government housing in Chile and the architectures of public housing in Los Angeles, and how each are distilled into the form of the installation to evoke possibility and resist a delimited conception of home.


Use the map above to guide you in your visit to the underpinning.
Los Angeles State Historic Park: 1543 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

An Artist’s Futuristic Ruins Unveiled in LA,”
Matt Stromberg, Hyperallergic, 2023
the underpinning’: New Sculpture unveiled at LA State Historic Park,” Luke Netzley, LA Downtown News, 2023
the underpinning’ reflects on home and belonging, Kristopher Gee, Spectrum News, 2024

Rodrigo Valenzuela (b. Santiago, Chile 1982) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, where he is an associate professor and head of the Photography Area in the Department of Art at UCLA. He works across photography, video, painting, and installation at the intersection of art history and architecture. Valenzuela examines his own relationships to labor and working-class identities, and excavates narratives built within the tensions of social cohesion between the individual and communities. Valenzuela has been awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography and Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant, Art Matters Foundation Grant, and Artist Trust Arts Innovators Award. He recently exhibited at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and Asya Geisberg Gallery.

the underpinning was commissioned by Clockshop and supported through our long-standing partnership with California State Parks. The production of this work was generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the Pasadena Arts Alliance, with additional support from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, and Clockshop’s generous community of supporters.