The SUR:biennial was founded in 2011. The brain-child of Ronald Rafael Lopez, director of Outpost for Contemporary Art, the SUR:biennial was established to explore the complex notions of globalization and exchange that takes place in the ambiguous borderlands between Los Angeles and the broader 'South,' featuring works by local and international artists who have been influenced by the cultures and artistic traditions of Mexico, Central & South America, and the Caribbean.
Lopez enlisted the help of Robert Miller (director of the Rio Hondo College Art Gallery) and James MacDevitt (director of the Cerritos College Art Gallery) in order to hold the first SUR:biennial in the eastern portion of Los Angeles county, a region that demographically reflects the themes of the biennial itself. In addition to Cerritos College (Norwalk, CA) and Rio Hondo College (Whittier, CA), the now-disbanded Whittier-based non-profit art space Blurbird Art House served as a third venue. Lopez himself curated the first biennial, spreading the selected artists across all three sites.
Shortly after the end of the first biennial, Lopez passed away, leaving Miller and MacDevitt determined to keep his vision alive. They moved forward with the second biennial (2013), working with Max Presneill (director of the Torrance Art Museum) to expand the geographical reach of the exhibition. For the second SUR:biennial, and all subsequent biennials, each institution curated its own space, with the joint-committee of gallery directors working together to link and market their independent exhibitions under the larger umbrella of the biennial itself, as well as to publish a shared exhibition catalog to document the works at each venue.
The third SUR:biennial (2015) saw the Manhattan Beach Art Center join the working group and the latest beinnial cycle, the 4th SUR:biennial (2017) now has seven different venues involved: Cerritos College Art Gallery, Eastside International (ESXLA), Long Beach City College Art Gallery, Manhattan Beach Art Center, Rio Hondo College Art Gallery, the Torrance Art Museum, and the Whittier Historical Society & Museum.
Over the course of the three previous biennials, numerous artits have presented existing and/or newly-commissioned work, including: