Unveiled in the Desert

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Michael Petry Takes On Palm Springs With A Little Help From His Friends
Challenging creation myths and infusing a dose of identity and sexual politics, Michael Petry: The Touch of the Oracle — an exhibition of three site-specific installations — opens March 17 to great curiosity at Palm Springs Art Museum.

One installation, Golden Rain, consists of 100 gold-mirrored glass raindrop-shaped vessels, references the Greek myth of Danae, whom Zeus impregnated in the guise of a shower of gold. Petry invited 100 artists, writers, and architects to place an artwork, poem, letter, or object into a glasswork — as if a message in a bottle were their only way to communicate with the outside world. Fabricators sealed the contents in the raindrops, which are suspended in cascading fashion from the ceiling to resemble a shower in the museum. Their contents are invisible to viewers but documented in the exhibition catalog.

That Petry, a Texas native who lives in London, had the glassworks fabricated touches on the artist’s conceptual ideology, suggesting that the idea often trumps craftsmanship. His book, The Art of Not Making: The New Artist/Artisan Relationship (Thames & Hudson), reveals that many of the most important and successful artists employ technical specialists to help realize their ideas.

Golden Rain hangs over Joshua D’s Wall, an installation of 250 hollow, glass-formed boulders that respond to the museum location and its proximity to Joshua Tree National Park, and reference the biblical story of Joshua and the fall of Jericho. Petry says the work “questions what myths are really about and how they affect us as contemporary people in a world where beliefs are often at war with each other. It’s subtly political, but dignified. I communicate through beautiful objects, and people can investigate it for themselves.” Petry designed the boulders, which were made at Berengo Glass Studio in Murano, Venice.

Rounding out the exhibition is a sound installation called The Dilemma. Pushing the boundaries of art, this piece takes inspiration from Palm Springs’ Hollywood history and features male and female voices singing a dialog set to music by composers John Powell (The Bourne Identity) and Gavin Greenaway.

“The three installations relate and interact with each other, adding a layer of visual complexity,” says museum curator Katherine Hough. “Petry transforms our observations about the nature of glass, and the environment allows the viewer to develop new insights, perceptions, and experiences.”

Michael Petry: The Touch of the Oracle runs March 17-July 29 at Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Dr., Palm Springs. 1-760-322-4800, www.psmuseum.org

Painting the Desert
Most people think of trees in terms of green and brown. Morongo-based artist Michael Ross uses black — thick and glossy like fresh tar and scraped down to a matte finish — in a stand of trees with red accents above a base of yellows and golds (mixed with many other colors). The black contrasts sharply with the palest of blue/white skies in the 38×72-inch Torrey Marshland at Ramey Art in Palm Desert.

Ross’ new abstract landscapes move beyond the flowers, water, and low-lying desert plants common to his work. “I think we’re back again with light and dark, shocking contrasts, in every type of art,” Ross says, referencing Franz Kline’s black-and-white paintings of the late ’40s/early ’50s. “It creates excitement. In my case, I guess it’s an effort to bring modernism into landscape.”

What sets Ross apart from other painters is his command of color (he refuses to use paint from a tube, even mixing his own black) and creating depth with his liberal use of palette knives digging into layers of oil.

Michael Ross opens an exhibition March 1, with an artist’s reception from 5 to 8 p.m., at Ramey Art, 73400 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 1-760-341-3800.

Two for the Show
In the age of iPhones  and Facebook, an event seems real only after someone photographs and posts it for others to see. This idea drives the exhibition of masterful, realist paintings by Deladier Almeida, who opens a show March 1 at Christian Hohmann Fine Art in Palm Desert. The exhibition coincides with the opening of a show of figurative paintings by Michael Azgour, a San Francisco-based artist who deftly abstracts his pictures by infusing geometric planes.

Deladier Almeida and Michael Azgour open shows March 1 at Christian Hohmann Fine Art, 73660 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 1-760-346-4243.

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