A sprawling outdoor art museum exists just north of Joshua Tree, California. Seven acres of arranged junk, all locally salvaged – a tortured playground, a scar and a monument.
The work of artist Noah Purifoy, who is clearly a formally trained genius, (one of the masterminds behind the Watts Towers in L.A. and has exhibited all over the world, including a stint at the museum in my home town, Oakland) not a quack who succumbed to the particular psychic mutations the sun can produce out here in the High Desert.
Most of the work addresses core concepts of homelessness and mental illness. I believe that those concepts are presented more as metaphors of a universal condition. I see malady here – no chance of integral reconciliation save the bleaching of our bones out under the wind and sand.
Purifoy delights in wripping the heart out of civilization and exposing all the pathos and all the anxiety and doing it without sentiment and without hesitation. This is a kind of warrior art that could only have been created here in the vortex and it is a frightful thing to behold.
I love that this exists, I do. I am glad I don’t live next door to it. There are ghosts there, clearly. The profound mass that the hundreds of the variously scaled works exudes is not unlike a dead city. A place where restless spirits pull at our souls and plead with us to consider their fate, not so much to register compassion, but rather to warn us that their fate may be our own.