Palm Springs Art Museum Exhibition Highlights Inland SoCal Artists

Artists from all walks confront the past, present, and future in the new Palm Springs Art Museum exhibition, Mythopoetica.

August 23, 2023
Story by Steven Biller
"Night Freight" by Chris Sanchez.
PHOTO BY LANCE GERBER

The sound of a passing train thunders through the Palm Springs Art Museum exhibition Mythopoetica: Symbols and Stories, drawing curious visitors toward the darkened gallery where Chris Sanchez’s “Night Freight” is busy stealing the show. His supply-chain symphony of LED light and projected video harmonizes on a 13-by-30-foot “canvas” of corrugated metal, engulfing viewers in sound and abstraction drawn from the artist’s life in Coachella.

Sanchez, aka Kas Infinite, is among 10 Inland Southern California artists in Mythopoetica who cleverly and often dramatically confront the region’s vast narratives, iconographies, and mythologies of the past, present, and future.

“Night Freight” encapsulates the sum of Sanchez’s influences — light and space, street, and Chicano art — and rounds out an exhibition featuring established and emerging artists tapping into the cultures and materials of the desert and border region.

“3 Sisters” by Cara Romero, 2022.
PHOTO COURTESY PALM SPRINGS ART MUSEUM, GIFT OF NICOLE PANTER DAILEY

Curators Luisa Heredia and Sharrissa Iqbal found the show’s intellectual nucleus in “3 Sisters,” a photograph by Chemaehuevi artist Cara Romero, whose imagery rings familiar to those who saw her Desert X billboard installation on Gene Autry Trail in 2019. The optimistic “3 Sisters” contains elements of past and present while suggesting a future where Native women hold a sacred role in the healing and balance of Earth.

Romero’s photographs create a brilliant dialog with works by Carlos Ramirez and Armando Lerma, Coachella-based artists who formerly collaborated as The Date Farmers and now work independently. Each uses simple, crude, everyday materials — from bottle caps and poker chips to images of pop culture figures — to riff on life desde abajo (from below), or from the perspective of the underdog, combining inventiveness, satire, and perhaps a survivalist outlook.

Mythopoetica: Symbols and Stories will be on display at the Palm Springs Art Museum until Jan. 15, 2024.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LANCE GERBER
Ramirez’s juxtaposition of Mesoamerican and pop iconography blurs history and modernity and leaves viewers to ponder the future. In addition to his signature “Super Chango” figure, Ramirez introduces shamanic worshippers, playing into the mythical and spiritual dimension of the exhibition.

Lily Stockman’s abstract paintings assert the idea of the sacred and create a feeling akin to a transcendent moment in the wide-open desert. In “Formation Over Twentynine Palms” (2021), the L.A.- and Yucca Valley–based artist uses simple shapes and forms to represent a row of fighter jets aligned over what could be Highway 62 or Amboy Road.

“Compass” by Lily Stockman.
PHOTO COURTESY PALM SPRINGS ART MUSEUM

John Flores, relatively new to Yucca Valley, works in a representational, almost surrealist style, incorporating humanoid features in his ceramic botanicals and seed pods. Works such as “Budding,” “Blooming,” and “Growing,” from his Saguaro series, reflect the artist’s joy and renewal since moving to the desert.

Flores and Edie Fake of Twentynine Palms give Mythopoetica an LGBTQ+ twist. Fake’s exuberant and meticulous gouache-on-panel works could be a metaphor for the queer community, with their colorful, geometric forms rising and falling in ever-changing constellations.

The two paintings by Los Angeles–based artist Daniel Gibson remind us of the never-ending humanitarian crisis on the border. “Plaster City East” (2021) depicts a scene from the town where he grew up and witnessed the harsh realities of migrants crossing into the United States. In the anthropomorphic painting, the border wall cuts through the desert landscape, and a butterfly appears to take the migrants, represented as flowers, to safety.

“Shamanic Visitors” by Carlos Ramirez.

PHOTO COURTESY PALM SPRINGS ART MUSEUM

Mythopoetica also includes three monumental aluminum sculptures suspended from the ceiling by Fay Ray and a film and a series of prints by Luiseño artist Sky Hopinka, a Palm Springs High School graduate and 2022 winner of the prestigious McArthur “genius” grant and fellowship. In his series The Land Describes Itself (2019), prints of fragmented and overlapping photographs, each accompanied with a short text etching, including “This is you describing what I saw,” imagine how photography and words can frame the landscape.

The exhibition continues through Jan. 15, 2024. Visit psmuseum.org.