Since opening in March 2023 Desert X has brought in an international look at 12 artists, whose works originate from Europe to South Asia. Curated by Artistic Director Neville Wakefield and Co-Curator Diana Campbell, the works bring into focus themes of social and environmental change whilst opening the dialogue on climate issues and the continuous conversation of globalism. The process of allowing viewers to interact with monumental works is one of a search-and-enjoy mission, from Matt Johnson’s gravity defying sculpture to Gerald Clarke‘s land work, each artist presents a unique interpretation and all share a vision for what works can present against the extreme heat and desert cold nights.
With these 12 works scattered throughout Palm Springs and neighboring cities, guests who decide to go on the excursion traverse each location in a choose-your-own-adventure manner, a chance to gamify. To view works in this way allows for all the subtleties that come with a personal experience with each installation. The fact that it takes time and navigation to approach each work presents a different type of journey, allowing the viewer to not only engage with the piece in a temporal, cerebral way, but also in the physical expression of approaching the monuments as a current statement of the devotion to consuming these crafted visions. As this year’s Desert X closes on May 7, we entice our Reserved community to participate and take a look for themselves at these monumental works of desert dialogues. Below are some of the highlights that are a must.
Rana Begum, No.1225 Chainlink – 74184 Portola Road, Palm Desert – 33.775917, – 116.368694
Rooted in the artist’s childhood obsession with the urban and industrial, Begum’s piece No.1225 Chainlink toys with opposing concepts of play and violence. One glance offers up thoughts of a playful maze in its day-glow yellow tone, and the other brings on the ideas of restraint and capture. The viewer’s engagement makes it their own path; one to navigate through, one to get trapped.
Paloma Contreras Lomas, Amar a Dios en Tierra de Indios, Es Oficio Maternal – Sunnylands Center & Gardens 37977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage – 33.780500, -116.406167
Amar a Dios en Tierra de Indios, Es Oficio Maternal is a sculpture that at first glance comes as a joyful myriad of textures and colors. A further read presents the obstructions in the textiles that offer up a sinister storytelling, as observed in the artist’s frequent themes of the confrontation with the violent male gaze. The soft, sculptural work directs itself in and out of a car, creating a great juxtaposition against its surroundings within the pristine grounds of Sunnylands Center and Gardens. Pro tip: give yourself time to grab an iced coffee and enjoy the wonderful campus full of nature and art at Sunnylands.
Torkwase Dyson, Liquid A Place Homme – Adams Park 72500 Thrush Road, Palm Desert – 33.708547, -116.399372
Water in the body and water in the desert is a signature of Dyson’s work. The large sculpture for Desert X pulls on scale and space, whilst engaging with black and brown lives. This piece forces the viewer to physically engage, whether going in between or above or around in a poetic meditation with the flow and engagement with the desert. Upon approaching this monument the walk to the sculpture is a meditative experience in itself.
Hylozoic/Desires (h/d)(Himali Singh Soin and David Spon Tappeser), Namak Nazar – Worsley Road between Pierson and Mission Lakes Boulevards Desert Hot Springs – 33.965665, -116.583173
Duo h/d composes the work of poetic expressionism and conveys it via this sculptural totem in the middle of the desert. Pulling on themes of conspiracy theories, flat-earthers and UFO hunters in an eerie and arresting sound piece, the work captivate and sparks questions of loss of home, and the search for shelter.
Matt Johnson, Sleeping Figure – I-10 Exit 110 to Railroad Ave – 33.922876, -116.689379
Set against a barren desert next to the railroad tracks, the shipping containers are posed in a way to allude to a cubist vision of an odalisque, or a concubine in the harem. This display is ever more potent with its material of the shipping containers, alluding to the diverse worldly view of handlers in business, both physical and in political states of globalism. This piece is a great work to view just in its sheer size.
Tschabalala Self, Pioneer – San Gorgonio Street and Bubbling Wells Road, Desert Hot Springs – 33.940884,-116.483980
Tschabalala Self’s work is devoted to the identity of the black feminine body and the intersectionality of race gender and sexuality. This potent piece celebrates the often forgotten indigenous, and African American women. The sculpture showcases their body and drives conversations of their place and part in the many laborious years of the American expansion into the west. Posed in a split position, Pioneer celebrates flexibility and the divine female form alongside the identity of modern America.
Download the Desert X app and take a ride to through the desert to choose your own path.
All images shot by Lance Gerber