Pop-up art exhibits and galleries can be a hit a or miss these days because of the over-saturation of art installations that cater more to social media influencers than actual art. Los Angeles recently has been the premier location for having pop-up art exhibits in obscure spaces within the city of Los Angeles.
Desert X is the first pop-up exhibit that has appeared outside of the city, with large installations in Coachella Valley that not only encourage viewers to travel 2 ½ hours outside of the city, but also was set up so that viewers must work to see these installation art pieces. The curators of Desert X strategically placed each installation by a different artist in specific locations. Desert X also created an app for users to learn more about the exhibit, as well as providing directions to each installation piece. The app gave an overall map of all the pieces being featured; the user can see how far each piece is from their location as well as other installations. It’s a pretty cool concept because it almost becomes a scavenger hunt to find each installation, and in return users start to get more involved, creating a more meaningful experience.
Desert X is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2015 to bring the best international artists to Coachella Valley to create art, engage the viewers and focus attention on the valley’s environment. This year’s exhibition is curated by Amanda Hunt and Matthew Schum alongside artistic director Neville Wakefield. Desert X 2019 has grabbed some of the biggest artists on the scene to participate. Desert X exhibits work from 19 different artists – each artist has a different story to tell through their work. The exhibit is from February 9th through April 21st of 2019, which will be the last weekend of the Coachella music festival. I have found that the best time to go is during the week or before the Coachella Instagram influencers discover the art to use as backdrops for their impromptu photoshoots.
Initially I was not excited about attending Desert X because I assumed it would be overcrowded with the typical Silverlake hipsters taking as many selfies as they need to until they got the right angles and lighting for the perfect selfie. I only experienced that at two of the installations though, which was a relief. I like to be present and to experience the art with no distractions from modern-day technology. The first installation I stopped at was at the Salton Sea State park to see Steve Badgett & Chris Taylor’s “Terminal Lake Exploration Platform” (TLEP) which was created to bring awareness about global water pollution. The artist’s intent was to peer into this murky bowl to examine textures, contents, and circumstances that have been accruing under the protection of water since 1905.
My next stop was to view Colombian artist Ivan Argote’s “A Point of View” stair sculptures, about 10-15 minutes above the Salton Sea TLEP installation. It is called “point of view” because depending on the time of day you can see the Coachella Valley civilization scattered across the bed of ocean from the Salton Sea. Also, the audience can communicate with each other with the words written on each step of the sculptures. Next, I headed over to the Danish collective Superflex sculptures which were about 30-35 minutes from the Salton Sea. The artists created these sculptures to acknowledge global warming and rising sea levels, desiring to create a piece that represented marine life to make it attractive for humans and marine life. The texture of the walls was very reminiscent of coral to translate their message to the audience. My very last stop was my personal favorite: the “Specter” piece created by Los Angeles artist Sterling Ruby. “Specter” is a giant fluorescent orange monolith in the middle of the desert that creates an optical illusion. The object acts as a stand-in object mimicking a form it could be, such as a shipping container, a military bunker, or just an unidentified object. The best explanation I saw was a ghostly object that is hiding in plain sight. The object’s fluorescent orange color is solely for safety purposes so that people know it is present.
Being able to experience Desert X was great since if you are not really an outdoor person like myself, or have not been outdoors in a while, it was a good way to get reintroduced to being outdoors. The trip out to Coachella Valley is about 2 and half hours from Los Angeles. It’s a quick getaway to be outside of the bustling city life and to be present in nature for a few hours. It felt like I was transported to a different planet for a small fragment of time. Although the installations are in the desert area of the city, for anyone who doesn’t feel too comfortable with being outdoors completely, Coachella Valley still has a suburban city in the middle of the desert that has places to eat and even a Westfield shopping center. I would definitely recommend everyone to try and make their way out to Desert X 2020 before the Coachella festival arrives so you won’t have to deal with more crowds and traffic, unless of course you’re headed to Coachella – in that case, take in the whole experience!