Calida Garcia Rawles lives and works in Los Angeles, US


Water is the architect of our bodies, their main constituent. Our life begins in water; water helps us to breathe; our brain is mostly made of water; water carries oxygen throughout our bodies; we are made of water. But water also carries the memories of the Middle Passage, the mass deportation of Africans. Seas remain cemeteries for Africans. Racism whitens water; capitalism manufactures its lack, its poisoning, and its privatization; states weaponize water; access to water is criminalized.


Calida Garcia Rawles, Guardian, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 248,3 × 121,9 cm, courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hongkong, Seoul, London; Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, Seoul © Calida Garcia Rawles, photo: Marten Elder


Calida Garcia Rawles powerfully brings forth the duality of water: giver of life and harbinger of death. Water is memory, she is telling us, as she juxtaposes Black joy and pain in her paintings of African American women and men, floating in glistening water. She addresses the politics, culture, and poetics of water in a racialized world, evoking the afterlives of slavery but also the world of Black beauty and strength. She evokes water’s power of healing as her paintings conjure the spirits of the sea goddesses of the African diasporic world—Mami Wata; Yemanjá of the Great River; Yemanjá of the Great Sea; and the Lady of the Waters, who brings forth new springs whenever she turns in her sleep and causes springs and rivers to erupt wherever she walks.

By visualizing the idea of aquatic serenity and liquid temporalities, Rawles insists on the possibility of peace in times of permanent war against people of color.

Françoise Vergès


Calida Garcia Rawles, A Promise, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 121,9 × 182,9 cm, courtesy George and Azita Fatheree; New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, London; Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, Seoul © Calida Garcia Rawles, photo: Marten Elder



On The Other Side of Everything, 2021, Lehmann Maupin, New York City (US) (solo)

A Dream For My Lilith, 2020, Various Small Fires, Los Angeles (US) and StandardVision, Los Angeles (US) (solo)

Next of Kin, 2020, Various Small Fires, Seoul (KR)

Presence, 2019, Fullerton College Art Gallery, Fullerton (US)

Sanctuary City: With Liberty and Justice for Some, 2017, San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco (US)