Desert X | Places to Go / by Julia Walck

Inspirational day trips are one of my favorite weekend things to do. This past Sunday, we drove through Palm Springs looking at art installations from Desert X. These site-specific works are only up until April 30, and they're definitely worth the trip.

Desert X is a curated exhibition of work that focuses on the land as a canvas. The artists work with site-specific areas and in a sense, use them as the main medium for their art.

It spans from Whitewater all the way down to the Coachella Valley. Here's a helpful map that can give you a preview of the journey. You can also pick up a Desert X map/booklet at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. 

We saw 8/15 installations (pretty solid for one day). A few of them had been performance pieces in February only so we wouldn't have been able to see them anyways; and Richard Prince's exhibit was no longer open to the public due to theft of his art, (major bummer).

Here's the installations we did see, and the order in which we saw them:

1. "MIRAGE" BY DOUG AITKEN (33°50'59.6"N 116°33'57.5"W)

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Mirage was our first stop, and is easily my favorite out of all the installations. We left LA at 6am and arrived at this mirrored house at 8am. Since it was fairly early we had free reign for a while. It was nice; gave us some time to reflect. (Pun intended).

After roaming around and catching all angles of this beauty, we headed to the Ace and picked up a map (and some pancakes).

2. "DONATION BOX" BY GABRIEL KURI (33°51'09.51"N 116°33'02.54"W)

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The hours of "Donation Box" are displayed as Wed-Sun 10am-4pm. We showed up at 10 and the building was closed with no one there to open it, so I just snapped a shot through the window and we went on our way to the next exhibit. 

3. "VISIBLE DISTANCE / SECOND SIGHT” BY JENNIFER BOLANDE (33°50’41.70”N 116°30’21.02”W)

These pieces can be seen from your moving car as you drive along Gene Autry Trail. I thought these billboards were brilliant. (Bill-iant?)

They're so simple but send such a strong message. In a world where we're constantly bombarded by ads, it's nice to stop and recognize where we are and be present in nature. 

4. "HEARTH” BY LITA ALBUQUERQUE (33°46’50.37”N 116°24’ 34.67”W)

This life size resin cast female body has one ear down, listening to the Earth and the nature surrounding her. She was also the same ultramarine blue color as the hat I was wearing, which multiple people pointed out. 

"Hearth" is about hearing the Earth. Albuquerque even composed an audio track that plays softly on speakers surrounding the sculpture. 

5. "THE CIRCLE OF LAND AND SKY” BY PHILLIP K SMITH III (33°46'33.3"N 116°22'07.3"W)

We got to "The Circle of Land and Sky" around 1pm. AKA the perfect time for that 93° sunshine to beat down on us. It was worth it though. The shadows the sun cast in different directions acted as an extension of the sculpture and almost were mirrors themselves.

Similar to "Mirage", the mirrors blended with their surroundings and almost seemed invisible. The land met the sky and everything in between.

We actually saw this one twice that day. Sunset seemed like a great time to go back and catch those pastel reflections cascading on the mirrors. 

The artist Phillip K Smith III was also there at sunset, and I had the pleasure of meeting him. Smith told me it took about 2 weeks to complete this piece, and he's come back multiple times to shoot time lapses of the sunrises, sunsets and super moon. 

6. "HOLLOW EARTH” BY GLENN KAINO (33°44'42.89"N  116°12'03.34"W)

At "Hollow Earth", you pull up to what seems like a murdery shack in the middle of a barren field. For the entry code, you text "hollowearth" to 41411.

It's fueled by solar power so make sure you go when there's still light outside. 

Once inside, you're surrounded by darkness and the only light source is what seems to be an endless portal to another dimension. Standing on it looks like you're floating over an infinite abyss, and was actually a bit terrifying. 

7. "CURVES AND ZIG ZAGS” BY CLAUDIA COMTE (33°42'23.9"N 116°23'55.5"W)

The lines on this wall were crazy. Looking straight on it seems like it's one horizontal structure, but as you walk around exploring different angles to view this piece, that horizontal line takes shape.

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That zig zag, curved motif striped on the wall plays off of the winding structure of the wall itself. To top it off, the shadow cast by the piece also creates a zig zag. 

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Anyone else getting major Twin Peaks vibes from this?

7. "I AM” BY TAVARES STRACHAN (33°47'38.3"N 116°23'44.0"W)

"I am" was our final stop. Open hours for this exhibit are Wed-Sun 7pm-10pm as it needs to be fully dark to view.

290 craters lit with neon tubes create pools of light among the desert floor.

If viewed from above, the phrase "I am" bursts out from its surroundings. If you have a drone, this might be a great place to use it. 

Aerial shot via David Blank for Whitewall Magazine

Aerial shot via David Blank for Whitewall Magazine

Exhibits we didn't get to check out were Sherin Guirguis "One I Call", Jeffrey Gibson "Alive!", Will Boone "Monument" and Armando Lerma "La Fiesta en el Desierto".

Remember, these installations are only here until April 30. If you're thinking "oh sweet, they'll be up for Coachella!" Just remember hundreds of other people are thinking that exact same thing. If you want to see these pieces on a more intimate level I'd suggest going before then. 

Be sure to check specific hours of exhibits on the Desert X website and have fun exploring!