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Desert X Returns with Colorful Installations

Artistic Inspiration

When one thinks of the dry desert of the Coachella Valley, white energy windmills, distant snow-capped mountains and vast nothingness comes to mind. Now, the second iteration of the biannual art event Desert X contributes its invasion of mythical site-specific installations to the landscape, bringing the work of international contemporary artists to the desert.

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Photo Credit: Lance Gerber


Curated by artistic director Neville Wakefield, co-curator Amanda Hunt, and co-curator Matthew Schum, Desert X explores topics from politics to the environment through installation, sculpture, pavilions and billboards. The free event attracted over 200,000 visitors in its 2017 edition. This year, many of the works dotted across the landscape – from Palm Desert to Indio – reflect on our connection to water, while negotiating the harsh desert elements and the mythology of the desert as a venerable environment.
Of all the 18 pieces here are the ones we think you MUST see!

NANCY BAKER CAHILL, REVOLUTIONS, TIPTON RD, WHITEWATER, CA 92282
Augmented reality is the chosen medium for Nancy Baker Cahill’s work Revolutions. Set in one of the windmill fields that dots the local landscape, the work is activated by use of the 4th Wall app, which transforms these energy generators into a two-minute-long constantly evolving vision of psychedelic explosions.

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Photo Credit: Lance Gerber


PIA CAMIL, LOVER’S RAINBOW, 69930 HIGHWAY 111, RANCHO MIRAGE
Camil’s work is an identical set of rainbows situated in Baja, Mexico & the Coachella Valley. Formed from rebar and painted in rainbow hues, the Lover’s Rainbow project is intended to shed light on current immigration policies. Historically, rainbows symbolize rain and fertility, therefore Lover’s Rainbow acts as a symbol of hope in the desert land.

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Photo Credit: Lance Gerber


STERLING RUBY, SPECTRE, 98-2 SNOW CREEK CANYON ROAD, WHITEWATER
One of the boldest statements is American artist Ruby’s monolithic fluorescent orange block, titled Specter. The cuboid volume creates a gap in the mountain vistas, alluding to an edifice or an apparition, and is colored like a safety warning. SPECTRE is a ghostly object, hiding in plain sight.

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photo credit: lance gerber


DIVE-IN, SUPERFLEX, 72-500 THRUSH ROAD, PALM DESERT, CA
Also using colored blocks, Danish collective Superflex’s Dive-In sculpture is a reminder that the valley was once underwater. Four cuboids are arranged in a Stonehenge-like fashion, with surfaces akin to marine coral in both texture and tone. For the opening night, Superflex debuted Dive-in, a film that explored global warming and rising water levels with an outdoor screen encased in the pink coral resin structure. As the camera moves closer, fish float by innocently to a vibrating sound and a slow close-up reveal of alien faces in the porous stone, before slowly fading back out again.

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photo credit: lance gerber


JOHN GERRARD, WESTERN FLAG, 2901 N. PALM, CANYON DRIVE, PALM SPRINGS
John Gerrard’s Western flag features a towering screen set against the mountains showing a 15-minute digital simulation depicting the site of the world’s first major oil finds, in Spindletop, Texas. The video circles a black flag of smoke representing carbon monoxide in an attempt to make the invisible visible. The screen is run live by software calculating each frame of the animation in real-time with the real site in Texas.

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photo credit: lance gerber


KATHLEEN RYAN, GHOST PALM, BUBBLING WELLS ROAD AT SAN GORGONIO STREET,
DESERT HOT SPRINGS
Ghost Palm is a meticulous reconstruction of the largest palm tree species native to California, the Washingtonia filifera (desert fan palm). Intentionally placed on a plot of low desert, Ghost Palm is a physical manifestation of the tenuous balance between fragility and power. Standing over 20 feet tall, the piece is constructed with manmade materials: steel, plastics and glass. The piece is visually transparent and appears almost invisible until it catches reflections of light.

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photo credit: lance gerber


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photo credit: lance gerber


Desert X will remain on view through April 21st, 2019. For more information, visit desertx.org/.