Outside of Joshua Tree is the magnificent Outdoor Desert Museum of Assemblage Sculpture, created by artist Noah Purifoy. You can read about the Museum here, because I find myself unable to explain it. But I took a lot of photos, and I had notions about what the sculptures meant to me. Purifoy documents our histories, and because he overlaps in time (1917 — 2004) with some of my time, I understood his assemblages on a personal level.
Bicycle racks? Bedsteads? Whatever — I found this sculpture beautiful. Made of junk and placed against the desert sky, familiar junk reassembled into something strange and wondrous.
Another beauty, not easily seen in this photo, but arcing pieces of aluminum, with the desert floor, all dirt and dust, below.
A roller coaster or sliding board — made of 65 aluminum trays. I laughed.
I imagine this as an old bar or bawdy house — wooden — with these plaster pieces stuck over the wood to make it “fancy.” The kind of thing one finds hanging around derelict desert towns.
And here’s one he calls “Gallows.” The desert sun contains darkness — or perhaps is so bright as to blind us to the dark.
We have all seen the burnt out cabins, with past lives partially spread out for all to see. However, this is also a kind of homage to a past artist too — or perhaps it’s a flick in the face: here’s to you, Marcel, and your dissolute ways. One can’t help but think of Duchamp’s Fountain:
But Fountain appears in many of Purifoy’s pieces, such as this one:
The signs above the objects (sorry that I couldn’t make them visible) read Whites and Colored. You may be able to guess which is which.
And perhaps you have to be a westerner to reference this street sign: Hanford is not just a fine stretch of landscape along the Columbia River but is also the failed nuclear waste repository, still not cleaned up with its nuclear poison creeping toward the water; Yucca is not merely a town down the road a piece (Yucca Valley) but also Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository
The 10 acre site is too large for any short piece of writing; the Noah Purifoy Foundation, the non-profit that preserves the Outdoor Museum, says in its brochure that a catalog of works and writings designed by Noah Purifoy but not published in his lifetime “will be published by Gerhard Steidl” I have found no other reference to this publication, but would hope it was or will be accomplished. june