Coachella calling: this new exhibition uses the desert as a canvas

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Coachella calling: this new exhibition uses the desert as a canvas


As of last week the Coachella valley is now home the inaugural Desert X exhibition, which has placed site-specific artworks across the desert. Curated by Neville Wakefield, the large scale art and sculpture exhibition tackles the pressing environmental and cultural concerns of this parched part of California, more often associated with Coachella festival and the 'playground of Presidents', Palm Springs.

16 international contemporary artists have created brand new work that reflects, reimagines and refocuses the desert landscape and it's up until 30 April. It's time to head west.

Alice Pritchard

Sun 5 Mar 2017

Claudia Comte’s free standing walls reflect their particular site and with her third, Curves and Zigzags, she plays with the never-ending duality of order and chaos, nature and culture. Her monochrome geometric pattern softens to an organic wave across the desert.

Guirguis’ One I Call marks a contrast to the other exhibits in the desert. Inspired by Egyptian pigeon keeping towers, this monument-hut acts as a sanctuary and memorial for all the desert populations who have been marginalised or displaced. It highlights the environmental impact of the growing commercialisation of the Coachella valley.

Doug Aitken’s Mirage plays on the dreams projected onto the desert frontier of the American West. The all mirrored house echoes a simple ranch, it absorbs and reflects the landscape, endlessly reframing it as something that can never be truly conquered.

"The landscape of harsh desert, high mountains, lush golf courses and a vanishing sea, holds a rich history and maintains mythical proportions in the narrative of the American West, one that includes ancient Indian tribes, prospectors, pioneers, and cowboys,” explains Susan Davis, Desert X founder. “We see Desert X as unique in shining a spotlight on the rich pre-existing architectural, natural and cultural legacies of the area, while offering the public a way to explore, activate and interrogate current, timely and historic issues through contemporary, creative practices."

Phillip K Smith III’s The Circle of Land and Sky sees 300 geometric reflectors mix the view of desert and sky until the two merge and separate. What is east, west, north and south becomes less important, only the desert really remains.

Will Boone’s Underground American Monument places a life-size model kit of JFK in an original atomic bunker. He uses America’s most iconic modern president as a lightening rod to highlight the movements driven underground since the ‘60s and the fears that might drive us to find shelter in a bunker once more.

Jennifer Bolande’s piece Visible Distance /  Second Sight chooses to advertise what is already there, reframing the desert landscape as site specific sequential adverts along the highway to draw people’s attention back to the natural world.

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