In Lucid Stead, Phillip K. Smith III demonstrates reverence for land and light

Higher Desert Art



Phillip K. Smith III, the artist who created Lucid Stead, has a solo exhibition in December at Royale Projects on El Paseo in Palm Desert.

STEVE KING

Philip K. Smith III’s Lucid Stead is a remote and ephemeral monument to light in all its shifting, blinding, beckoning, alienating, meditative, magical, natural, and artificial splendor. The site-specific art installation occupies a homestead location about 20 minutes outside of Joshua Tree — a skeletal shelter on five acres surrounded by 40 of federal land that Smith augments with one- and two-way mirrors, weathered wood, and interior light sources to create a temporary, yet epic work. While not officially part of High Desert Test Sites, Lucid Stead coincided with this year’s iteration, and Smith conceived it as a conceptual and geographical cousin — inspired by this “raw environment that invites investigation” — that will live in an indefinite and evolving state.

 

 

Smith, also an accomplished architect, has gained notoriety for his large-scale public sculpture in California, Arizona, Virginia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. He was the 2010 artist in residency at Palm Springs Art Museum, where he created Aperture, a light-based sculptural installation “in a constant state of slow change.”

Lucid Stead is different from and on a continuum with works like Aperture, which demonstrates his architectural way of thinking about structure, scale, and sightlines. Smith uses combinations of high-grade plastic, steel, lighting, and electronics, but he reminds you that his light itself is his true medium. He uses LEDs to “extract the distilled experience of how light changes over time — how a mountain out here can be blue, red, brown, white, purple, and black all in one day,” he says. “Color creates space that’s both crisp and organic.”

Sounds like the words of a painter. In fact, Rick Royale of Royale Projects, the Palm Desert gallery that represents Smith and opened an exhibition of his work in November, places him partly in the context of what might be called desert painting. “Much of his passion and inspiration is derived from the distinctive desert light, the slowly changing colors of the landscape, and the unrestrained volume of its wide-open spaces,” Royale says. “These are elements that artists have marveled over for centuries. From the early California Impressionists to Light and Space artists such as Peter Alexander, Phillip consciously continues the historical lineage.”

Smith bought the five acres that became Lucid Stead in 2004. He grew up near Joshua Tree, had moved back from the East Coast several years earlier, and was pursuing his architectural practice as his visual art was coming to the fore. “I wanted to be in the raw, have the experience of no close neighbors. The desert is part of who I am. I missed my brown mountains and my open horizons.”

This relationship is paramount in everything he does — architecture, public sculpture, site-specific installation design, or some combination. The experience of Lucid Stead lands on this continuum, demanding the same kind of hyper-awareness and attentiveness as Aperture and his gallery works. It’s a durational spectacle; it requires a time commitment. Smith says the drive to Joshua Tree is “not the same as a trip to the museum. You have to really participate; you have to engage.”

In these ways, all his work hinges on experiential quality — and that is especially true with Lucid Stead.

Visit www.pks3.com and royaleprojects.com
 

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Art + Culture
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

View St. Theresa School Student Projects at April 16 Open House

Those who missed viewing Modernism Week’s extraordinary St. Theresa Catholic School Student Project will have a final opportunity to see them at an open house at the school on April 16 in Palm Springs.

Sylvie Rokab: Interview With a Biophile

Visually stunning and deeply provocative, Sylvie Rokab’s documentary "Love Thy Nature" deftly challenges the age-old notion that we, as a species, enjoy full dominion over the Earth and its creatures to use (and abuse) for our comfort and pleasure.

Filmmakers Talk

Documentary filmmaker Andrea Meyerson didn’t plan on making a documentary about lesbian activist Ronni Sanlo and the devastating custody loss of her two young children — a tangential casualty of Anita Bryant’s virulent war against Florida homosexuals during the late 1970s.

Directed by Art

Now age 90, former Playboy art director Art Paul is ready to direct our attention to his own intriguing works — at Coda Gallery in Palm Desert this month.

Oasis in Focus

When Los Angeles–based photographer Nancy Baron landed in Palm Springs many years ago from her hometown of Chicago, she found a glimpse of paradise.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

2014/15 Best of the Best

2014/15 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.
GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest

Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest

Enter your “Cutest Pet” photo in the Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest. Online users will be able to like the Cutest Pet photos from six (6) categories.
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Edit ModuleShow Tags