Desert X artist Eduardo Sarabia’s exhibit from 2019, “El Toro y otros relatos”.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY DESERT X
Joshua Tree’s Kim Stringfellow is among 13 participating artists in the third edition of Desert X, a site-specific international art exhibition opening March 12 and continuing through May 16 across the Coachella Valley.
Desert X will be the first major event to take place in the Coachella Valley since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020. The free outdoor art exhibition makes it possible to conduct the event safely.
The rest of the artists include: Zahrah Alghamdi (Al Bahah, Saudi Arabia, based in Jeddah); Ghada Amer (Cairo, Egypt, based in New York); Felipe Baeza (Guanajuato, Mexico, based in New York); Judy Chicago (Chicago, US. based in Belen, New Mexico); Serge Attukwei Clottey (Accra, Ghana, based in Accra); Nicholas Galanin (Sitka, Alaska, US, based in Sitka); Alicja Kwade (Katowice, Poland, based in Berlin); Oscar Murillo (Valle del Cauca, Colombia, based in various locations); Christopher Myers (New York, based in New York); Eduardo Sarabia (Los Angeles, based in Guadalajara, Mexico); Xaviera Simmons (New York, based in New York); Stringfellow (San Mateo, California, based in Joshua Tree), and Vivian Suter (Buenos Aires, Argentina, based in Panajachel, Guatemala).
The 2021 projects explore many current issues: the history of land rights, ownership and stewardship, the desert as border marked by narratives of migration, social justice and racial demarcations of the West, the gendered landscape and the role of women and children and the creation of new dialogues between regional and global desert experience.
“As much as the desert is a state of place, it is also a state of mind. Its borders are not singular but multiple, and it is defined as much by social geography as physical boundary,” said Artistic Director Neville Wakefield. “Desert X 2021 seeks to explore this idea of the desert as a place where the marginalized and migratory – whose voices and histories may have struggled to manifest within the dominant discourses of growth and development – can also be heard.”
“For Desert X 2021, we took our cues from the way deserts are formed, from the natural processes that weather their surfaces and expand their geographies, said Co-curator César García-Alvarez.
Alicja Kwade, ParaPivot.
A previous installation by Zahrah Alghamdi, After Illusion
“Acting upon this place, the projects seek to identify and uplift lesser known and complex stories of immeasurable impact through conversations between the lived experience of people here with those who came before them and the realities that we live in now. We refute the dichotomy of local versus global, and instead champion the nuances that connect both.”
In What Lies Behind the Walls, Zahrah Alghamdi creates a monumental sculptural wall, which, like a geological extrusion, reveals the different stratas of time as they have been captured both in millenia of geological transformation and the last few centuries of rapid development so connecting the desert landscape of the Coachella to the transformations of other deserts across the globe.
Women’s Qualities by Ghada Amer is a social project that polled diverse communities within the Coachella Valley, whose representations take the form of word gardens that are dependent on nature, care and other activities traditionally associated with femininity.
Felipe Baeza’s mural Finding Home in My Own Flesh grapples with the erasure of queer communities of color from multiple histories and places integral to the Coachella Valley. From the lack of spaces that nurture racialized queer bodies, to the absence of queer voices in the recorded stories of the local labor movement, to the many who have died from HIV/AIDS, this work acknowledges both the invisibility and the potential to re-insert these voices back into the stories they have been removed from.
Living Smoke; A Tribute to the Living Desert, in partnership with the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, a specially-commissioned Desert X Smoke Sculpture by Judy Chicago, scheduled for April 9, continues the artist’s practice since the 1960s of making work in counterpoint to the male-dominated narratives of Land Art, including ‘Atmospheres’ or smoke pieces aimed at momentarily transforming and feminizing the landscape without leaving a mark or trace.
In The Wishing Well, Serge Attukwei Clottey speaks to the challenges various communities face when accessing potable water. Structures made from Kufuor gallons, used in rural regions of Ghana to move water from sources to homes, echo a standing well—a place to journey to in search of what should be a more accessible, natural resource.
Never Forget by Nicholas Galanin addresses the issue of monuments and what they memorialize, functioning as both a raising of consciousness and a call to action, that by linking to the landback movement, interrogates the ideas of land on which the land art movement has been historically based.
A previous work by Serge Attukwei Clottey at The Mistake Room in Los Angeles.
Alicja Kwade’s sculptural work ParaPivot (sempiternal clouds) is at once an atomic model and a geological proposition. The seemingly icy, stone fragments, in contrast to the desert, reference current global issues, ideas of space – both micro and macro, relativity and time between terrestrial land and outer space.
In a new chapter of his ongoing project Frequencies, specially modified for the home learning experience brought upon by the pandemic, Oscar Murillo collaborates with hundreds of young people from schools across the Coachella Valley to broaden an archive, via student-intervened canvases, that indexes the experiences of young people through mark-making.
Christopher Myers’ The Art of Taming Horses explores the relationship between myth and history to shed light on lesser known stories of the region.
A previous work by Nicholas Galanin, The American Dream is Alive and Well.
Through a new series of equestrian sculptures adorned with narrative banners Myers tells of African-Americans who traveled South to escape bondage and of Mexican-Americans who journeyed north for a better life. Through a fictional story of a pair of cowboy friends, one African-American and one Mexican, Myers shed light on the kinds of lives these communities could have had here one day.
In The Passenger, a large-scale maze structure made from woven palm tree fiber walls, Eduardo Sarabia examines the desert as a border through the trope of the journey—a motif that connects peoples across geographies and cultures.
Xaviera Simmons employs billboards in Because You Know Ultimately We Will Band A Militia to craft language and image that confronts white stereotypes and complicity within narratives that shape our societal structures.
In a diorama representing the life of one of the early homesteaders, Stringfellow’s Jackrabbit Homestead chronicles one of the less remembered histories of desert land that belongs to the Jackrabbit homesteader, which began in 1938 with Southern California’s Small Tract Act.
From a previous work by Xaviera Simmons, The Importance Of Slavery In The Construction Of.
Inspired by pictures of the region that have helped construct its visual imaginary, Vivian Suter’s Tamanrasset is an installation of paintings and light inside an iconic modernist building. The work translates the desert terrain, as image, into abstracted forms and colors–drawing attention to the desert as a condition with emotional and psychological dimensions.
“More so than ever, Desert X 2021 is an exhibition for our times”, says Desert X Founder and President Susan Davis. “The curators have brought together an extraordinary group of international artists who have made compelling works that celebrate the Coachella Valley and its histories while provoking us to explore our commonalities and celebrate our differences.”
The Desert X 2021 map of artist installations can be found at desertx.org starting March 12 and via the Desert X 2021 app.