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Posts Tagged ‘Noah Purifoy

Noah Purifoy’s outdoor museum

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Assemblage sculpture from Noah Purifoy’s museum in Joshua Tree, California

Noah Purifoy was an accidental find. During last visit to Joshua Tree National Park, we ended up staying close to his museum of assemblage sculpture. Since then, I learned many things, a) media describes him as an artist forged by fire, his earliest body of sculpture, constructed out of charred debris from LA’s 1965 Watts rebellion, was the basis for 66 Signs of Neon, the landmark 1966 group exhibition on the Watts riots that traveled throughout the country, b) he was exhibited at LACMA in 2015, “Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada“, 50th anniversary of the Watts riots  when several of these large-scale sculptures from Joshua Tree museum were brought in along with some of his early works, and  finally, c) something provocative even by today’s standards, his 1971 solo show.

A 1971 solo show at the Brockman gallery in Los Angeles—for which he converted gallery space into a squalid, crowded inner-city apartment shared by an extended black family, complete with a stinky refrigerator, roaches, and figures getting busy under bedcovers—was an even more provocative exploration of racial and social injustice (the title of the show: “N* Ain’t Gonna Never Ever Be Nothin’—All They Want to Do Is Drink and Fuck”). – Julia Felsenthal for Vogue in 2015

One of the pieces, that stuck me most was an assembled home.

View 1: Assemblage sculpture of a home at Noah Purifoy’s museum in Joshua Tree, California

View 2: Assemblage sculpture of a home at Noah Purifoy’s museum in Joshua Tree, California

View 3: Assemblage sculpture of a home at Noah Purifoy’s museum in Joshua Tree, California

 

I didn’t know anything about Noah when we stumbled upon his open museum. I had seen assemblage sculpture in closed museum spaces before, a piece here or a piece there, and they never quite made much sense. But out there in the bright desert sun, in a seemingly middle of nowhere little (albeit destination) town, on a vacation from the humdrum of life, and seeing them all together, a narrative has started to form.

I am beginning to realize that the museum spaces are as important as the pieces themselves. I remember feeling sorry for the magnificent creatures of Theo Jansen when they were exhibited indoors at the San Francisco Exploratorium. They felt broken and powerless in the cavernously large and poorly lit exploratorium. I am sure they would have been wonderful on the beach, howling in the wind.

The disappointment at the Exploratorium was similar when seeing sunflower seeds of Ai Weiwei at the Tate Gallery in London. The original intention was a design where visitors could walk or roll on an infinite carpet of porcelain sunflower seeds in the vastness of the turbine hall. Juliet Bingham, Curator of Tate Modern had said, “Each piece is a part of the whole, a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses. The work continues to pose challenging questions: What does it mean to be an individual in today’s society? Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together? What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?” But shortly after its opening, this interactive display was declared a health hazard due to porcelain dust. So, Tate had to put the seeds in a conical pile  in the center of a featureless bright room, cordoned off with a security guard watching over.

So if a museum piece doesn’t make sense, I just have to remind myself that perhaps it is in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

Written by locomotoring

May 7, 2018 at 6:30 am

Posted in California, USA

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