Landscape Art – Until May 16, Desert X 2021 – the third edition of the landscape art diffuse exhibition in the Coachella Valley, California – invites for the region’s first art experience since widespread lockdowns. Newly-commissioned works by thirteen artists from eight countries explore the desert as both a place and idea, looking deeper at ideas essential to the sustenance of our future and identity and the histories, realities and possibilities of the Coachella Valley and its many communities.
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The projects explore many of the issues we face in these difficult times: the history of land rights, ownership and stewardship, the desert as border marked by narratives of migration, social justice and racial demarcations of the West, the gendered landscape and the role of women and children and the creation of new dialogues between regional and global desert experience.
In What Lies Behind the Walls, Saudi Arabian artist Zahrah Alghamdi creates a monumental sculptural wall, which, as a geological extrusion, reveals the different strata of time as they have been captured both in millennia of geological transformation and the last few centuries of rapid development so connecting the desert landscape of the Coachella to the transformations of other deserts across the globe.
“Material and memory are inextricably intertwined,” explains the artist. “When I visited Palm Springs, I was struck by the connection between the desert landscapes and architectures.” Many of her works involve large accumulations of material that seemingly layer the histories and cultures of the places from which they come.
In The Wishing Well, Ghanan artist Serge Attukwei Clottey speaks to the challenges various communities face when accessing potable water. The installation features structures made from Kufuor gallons, used in rural regions of Ghana to move water from sources to homes, echo a standing well—a place to journey to search for what should be a more accessible natural resource.
With his ongoing ‘Gallonism’ project, the artist explores the relationship between the prevalence of the yellow oil gallons regarding consumption and necessity in the life of the modern African… Commanding attention and changing the narrative, one yellow gallon at a time.
Alicja Kwade’s architectural work ParaPivot (sempiternal clouds) is at once an atomic model and both an astronomical and geological proposition. The Polish-German contemporary visual artist created seemingly icy, stone fragments that, in contrast to the desert, reference current global issues, ideas of space– both micro and macro, relativity and time between terrestrial land and outer space.
Using a wide range of media, Kwade creates sculptures and installations that reflect on time, perception, and scientific inquiry. With equal parts poetry and critical acumen, she calls into question the systems designed to banish doubt from the world and make sense of an otherwise unfathomable universe.
In The Passenger, a large-scale maze structure made from woven palm tree fiber walls, Eduardo Sarabia examines the desert as a border through the trope of the journey—a motif that connects peoples across geographies and cultures.
The American artist takes inspiration from the independent economies and folk history of northern Mexico. Without limiting himself to a critique of the “exoticization” of Mexican culture, Sarabia creates sculptures and installations that “address the complex exchanges—social, cultural, and material—that occur when northern Mexican history encounters outsiders.”
Never Forget by Nicholas Galanin, a Tlingit and Unangax̂ multi-disciplinary artist and musician from Alaska, US, addresses the issue of monuments and what they memorialize. Functioning as both a raising of consciousness and a call to action, they link to the ‘landback’ movement, interrogates the ideas of land on which the land art movement has been historically based.
“We acknowledge the Cahuilla People as the original stewards of the land on which Desert X takes place. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work with the indigenous people in this place.” Explain the artist. All funds raised will go towards repatriating land back to Indigenous communities and to support the LandBack movement, to continue the acquisition of land titles for Indigenous nations to have legal standing under U.S. law to protect traditional territories.