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the underpinning

the underpinning
Rodrigo Valenzuela
December 9, 2023 – March 26, 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.

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.