You’ve seen the pictures and heard the buzz. Now, get out and see Desert X for yourself. The sprawling outdoor exhibition of site-specific art is the first major cultural event in Greater Palm Springs since the COVID-19 pandemic all but shuttered the destination. And it doesn’t disappoint.
From March 12 through May 16, 2021, you can see 13 eye-popping and thoughtful installations by artists from around the world. They visited Greater Palm Springs, immersed themselves in local lore and culture and considered the desert through the filters of gender, race, migration, Indigenous territories and histories, and environmental justice.
Then, they responded with creative, innovative and poignant artworks.
Here’s how to see the show.
Zahrah Alghamdi, What Lies Behind the Walls
Desert X installation view of Zahrah Alghamdi, What Lies Behind the Walls. 2021. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy the artist and Desert X.
Pierson Boulevard (Between Foxdale Drive and Miracle Hill Road), Desert Hot Springs
Coordinates: 33°57’51.3”N 116°29’03.3”
Start north of Interstate 10 in Desert Hot Springs, with Zahrah Alghamdi’s architectural monument to memory and history. Located on Pierson Boulevard between Foxdale Drive and Miracle Hill Road, What Lies Behind the Walls reads like a geological extrusion, revealing strata of time and rapid development.
Alicja Kwade, ParaPivot (sempiternal clouds)
71690 Channel Run Road, Sky Valley
Coordinates: 33°55’41.1”N 116°24’42.8”W
In Sky Valley (71690 Channel Run Road), Alicja Kwade explores the ideas of space, relativity and time with her sculpture ParaPivot, which the curators describe as “at once an atomic model and geological proposition.” Its illusion of instability is a nod to current global issues.
Xaviera Simmons, Because You Know Ultimately We Will Band A Militia
Gene Autry Trail (Between Via Escuela and Interstate 10), Palm Springs
Coordinates: 33°51’08.8”N 116°30’21.9”W
Then, head south into Palm Springs, via Gene Autry Trail, to see Xaviera Simmons’ installation on a succession of billboards. Because You Know Ultimately We Will Band A Militia promotes social justice causes and confronts white stereotypes and complicity within racist narratives that shape our roles within society.
Serge Attukwei Clottey, The Wishing Well
Desert X installation view of Serge Attukwei Clottey, The Wishing Well. 2021. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy the artist and Desert X.
James O. Jessie Desert, Highland Unity Center
480 W. Tramview Road, Palm Springs
Coordinates: 33°52’05.2”N 116°33’09.9”W
Next, go west to the James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center to behold Serge Attukwei Clottey’s monumental cube structures made from yellow plastic Kufuor gallons, which are used in his native Ghana to move water from their sources to people’s homes. The title, The Wishing Well, refers to the standing wells that many people around the world trek to every day to access water. The work might also hint at the coming water crisis.
Nicholas Galanin, Never Forget
Desert X installation view of Nicholas Galanin, Never Forget. 2021. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy the artist and Desert X.
North of the Palm Springs Visitors Center at Tramway Road
2901 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Coordinates: 33°51’27.7”N 116°33’32.8”W
Nearby, north of the Palm Springs Visitors Center at Tramway Road, Nicholas Galanin, a Native American artist from Sitka, Alaska, presents the dramatic Never Forget, mimicking the famous Hollywood sign but with the words “Indian Land,” addressing the idea of monuments and what they memorialize.
Felipe Baeza, Finding Home in My Own Flesh
201 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Coordinates: 33°49’31.9”N 116°32’50.4”W
Opening April 2021
In downtown Palm Springs (202 N. Palm Canyon Drive), Felipe Baeza is installing a mural (check desertx.org for the opening date) to recognize the Coachella Valley’s queer communities of color that are erased from local histories, particularly the labor movement and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It acknowledges the invisibility and invites the community to see these people, hear their voices and provide them with safe spaces to flourish.
Vivian Suter, Tamanrasset
Desert X installation view of Vivian Suter, Tamanrasset. 2021. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy the artist and Desert X.
333 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Coordinates: 33°49’09.0”N 116°32’50.6”W
A few blocks south, in a modernist building located at 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Vivian Suter has created a series of large, unstretched abstract paintings based on images of the Greater Palm Springs landscape that she found on the internet to explore “the way the landscape exists and circulates in two dimensions.”
CHRISTOPHER MYERS, The Art of Taming Horses
Tahquitz Canyon Way (Between Sunrise Way and Civic Drive), Palm Springs
Coordinates: 33°49’23.4”N 116°30’47.8”W
Heading toward Palm Springs International Airport on Tahquitz Canyon Way, between Sunrise Way and Civic Drive, Christopher Myers presents a series of equestrian sculptures under woven banners, telling the fictional story revealing lesser-known narratives of runaway slaves who traveled south instead of north in search of freedom — as well as Mexican-Americans who journeyed north for a better life.
GHADA AMER, Women’s Qualities
Desert X installation view of Ghada Amer, Women’s Qualities. 2021. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy the artist and Desert X.
37977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage
Coordinates: 33°46’49.3”N 116°24’34.5”W
Continue to Sunnylands Center & Gardens in Rancho Mirage, where Ghada Amer has installed the latest iteration of her social project Women’s Qualities, a “word garden” reflecting the way diverse groups of women in Greater Palm Springs identify themselves.
Eduardo Sarabia, The Passenger
Desert X installation view of Eduardo Sarabia, The Passenger. 2021. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy the artist and Desert X.
Frank Sinatra Drive and Portola Avenue, Palm Desert
Coordinates: 33°46’33.3”N 116°22’07.3”W
Eduardo Sarabia tackles the desert as a border through the trope of the journey in The Passenger, a massive maze in the shape of an arrow tip constructed with woven palm tree fiber walls. Located at Frank Sinatra Drive and Portola Avenue in Palm Desert, the work speaks to the challenges and aspirations that inspire these journeys — including to and from Greater Palm Springs.
KIM STRINGFELLOW, Jackrabbit Homestead
Desert X installation view of Kim Stringfellow, Jackrabbit Homestead. 2021. Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy the artist and Desert X.
Adjacent to the Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce
72559 Highway 111, Palm Desert
Coordinates: 33°43’24.9”N 116°24’03.4”W
Joshua Tree-based artist/anthropologist Kim Stringfellow has created a diorama representing the life of one of the early High Desert homesteaders following the passage of the Small Tract Act of 1938. The work raises questions about class, sustainability and public lands.
OSCAR MURILLO, Frequencies
Check desertx.org for exhibition dates and venues.
Colombian artist Oscar Murillo will also present the latest iteration of Frequencies, a collaboration with school children from around Greater Palm Springs. He had canvases and other art supplies delivered to kids’ homes and encouraged them to paint what they’re feeling. He’ll exhibit them as a single, large-scale installation flanked by and in conversation with his own paintings. The students’ canvases are also digitized for an online archive.
Judy Chicago, Living Smoke
Finally, as we go to “press,” Desert X and the legendary feminist artist Judy Chicago were working to re-site her “smoke sculpture” after its original location was scrapped over concerns about the safety to the nearby population of endangered peninsular bighorn sheep. The program will screen at desertx.org, which you can check for updates.
Visit desertx.org to download the Desert X app, subscribe to the Desert X newsletter and learn about virtual programs featuring the artists, curators and the community that play a vital role in animating the artists’ ideas. And be sure to pick up a copy of the Desert X program and map at the official Desert X Hub at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.
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To start planning your art adventure in Greater Palm Springs, including where to eat, find maps and more, click here.