Using a variety of media, artist Cristopher Cichocki weaves found — and often neon-painted — objects and images into a compelling exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum that confronts an apocalyptic future at the Salton Sea.
Desert Abyss: Cycle in Cycle, which continues through Sept. 22, serves as a visually stunning wake-up call, using painting, photography, video, and sculpture, often punctuated under psychedelic black light.
“The Salton Sea is right in our back yard,” says Cichocki (pronounced (chä-hä-skee). “Scientists project that within the next 20 years, if nothing is done to preserve the sea, it will dry up and become a toxic dust bowl, making the air quality uninhabitable. I feel as if we need to take action now, bring awareness now. Twenty years is a flash.”
The exhibition consists of works that Cichocki has created for more than a decade since the Coachella Valley artist attended the prestigious CalArts. He composes his work with found objects (including branches, dead fish, barnacles, mud, sand and an array of construction materials), which he paints in Day-Glo orange and green to emphasize the tension between the natural and synthetic environments.
“The neon represents an awareness a caution, a hazard,” Cichocki says.
Pointing to one of the photographs in the exhibition, he says, “I sprayed the branch in neon and placed it in an ephemeral sculptural configuration. I like the idea that sculpture and paintings can exist in a vast open desert, whether it stays there or is ephemeral. I can frame the work through photography and video.”
Desert Abyss includes several videos — mud volcanoes, floating algae, dead tilapia — on LED screens, two of which he placed in sculptural objects that obscure the picture, and projected onto the floor.
Large-scale paintings, photographs, corroded found objects, and audio soundscapes round out the narrative. The field recordings of water create a meditative quality, reinforcing the correlations between water and survival of life.
Mark your calendar for these events with Cichocki at the Palm Springs Art Museum:
• Artist Spotlight and Family Activity: Sunday, Sept. 8, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (free)
• Artist Talk: Thursday, Sept. 12, 6-7 p.m. (free)
• Future Days of The Salton Sea Symposium: Sunday, Sept. 22, 3-5 p.m. (free with museum admission)