SITE-SPECIFIC ART ROCKS COACHELLA

By Kimberly Nichols - Wednesday, April 20, 2016
SITE-SPECIFIC ART ROCKS COACHELLA

The annual Coachella Arts and Music Festival that takes place over two weekends in the Southern California desert city of Indio on historical polo grounds has quickly become known as the preeminent musical festival of our time. Part of its popularity is due to its wide conglomeration of genre-crossing musical acts that span age, race and class to deliver a cross section of the current psyche of music lovers worldwide. But this year Goldenvoice, which produces the festival, has really upped its offerings through commissioning six artworks by internationally renowned artists on a grand scale as part of the event’s ambiance.

SITE-SPECIFIC ART ROCKS COACHELLA

The annual Coachella Arts and Music Festival that takes place over two weekends in the Southern California desert city of Indio on historical polo grounds has quickly become known as the preeminent musical festival of our time. Part of its popularity is due to its wide conglomeration of genre-crossing musical acts that span age, race and class to deliver a cross section of the current psyche of music lovers worldwide. From little known acts to huge stars to the festival’s signature theme of reuniting fan favorite bands like this year’s Guns & Roses and LCD Soundsystem revivals, the festival delivers a truly unique experience.

But this year Goldenvoice, which produces the festival, has really upped its offerings through commissioning six artworks by internationally renowned artists on a grand scale as part of the event’s ambiance. The combination of art installations and music presents an interesting cultural combination, delivering the work from its more staid or academic art world setting into a more populous encounter with everyday humanity. This gives the artwork and the artists a level of exposure beyond the gallery or museum space and injects the works’ key messages into a broader spectrum of consciousness and audience in newly accessible ways.  Because of the sheer size of much of the work the pieces are impossible to ignore, and in fact, become integral parts of the festival experience, inviting festivalgoers to interact and engage in different ways with their presence.

ARMPIT, California Edition by Katrina Neiburga and Andris Eglitis  

In a huge coup for the festival, Latvian contemporary artists Katrina Neiburga and Andris Eglitis, both recipients of the Purvitis Prize, the highest award in the area of fine arts in Latvia, present an edition of their seminal work ARMPIT. The collaborative work, originally commissioned for the 2015 Venice Biennale, integrates Neiburga’s multimedia installations with Eglitis’ more traditional media choices. A cobbled together structure of wood and other construction type materials that resembles a large and lumbering mechanical Mad Max-like animal/machine/hybrid treehouse sits on a patch of lawn inviting visitors to enter its chamber. Once inside, the viewer is barraged with a world of video screens depicting Soviet men tinkering in their garages and working on various projects. Entering into this “man-cave,” one becomes privy to a world of private male hobby, industry, and escape away from families, society and the burdens/responsibilities of masculinity.

 

Katrina Chairs by Alex Arrechea

Cuban-born Alexandre Arrechea is known for employing visual metaphors for ongoing social themes of inequality and cultural disenfranchisement within his sculptures. In Katrina Chairs he took this concept large scale, creating a 15-foot tall and 10-foot wide steel I-beam and plywood quadrant of four massive yellow chairs that each hold their own stack of squares. The piece harkens to the idea of a community holding up its own, as was essential in the disastrous hurricane that knocked out New Orleans in 2005, while creating beneath its very structure a communal place for reflection. Wandering inward to the center of the piece, one can look up and marvel at the four corners as if encased within a small city where multiple sectors of humanity converge for a relative moment in time. 

 

Sneaking Into The Show by The Date Farmers

Hometown boys and now world-renowned artists Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez of The Date Farmers create their paintings, collages, sculptures, effigies, and installations to highlight their Mexican-American heritage and touch on Californian pop culture. Their tongue in cheek piece Sneaking Into The Show presents a 30-foot tall figurative sculpture of two characters and a low rider bicycle which seem to have literally emerged from one of the duo’s iconic Chicano, graphic-style paintings to stand tall and proud amongst the festival grounds. The piece remarks upon the reality that those who live in the largely farming and agricultural communities just outside the festival grounds are also those not prone to be able to afford participation or entry into the festival even though they are oftentimes the caretakers of the very grounds upon which the festival is able to thrive.

 

Portals by Philip K Smith III

Philip K Smith III returns to Coachella following his largest light installation to date in 2014, Reflection Field. This new piece, Portals, is a massive circular environment placed into the middle of the festival. From afar, one sees a looming and wavy, mirage-like vision floating on the grass in which mirrored slats beckon one closer through a surreal and disorienting reflection. Upon nearing the piece, one can physically see through it in lengths of voids positioned between the mirrored panels, which reveal a glowing white inner courtyard planted at its center with a circular seating bench holding an enormous tree. Once inside the environment one encounters alongside its internal periphery various square spaces that host voluptuous, three-dimensional, circular wall sculptures that constantly transform via shades of light, color and gradient that dance across their facades delivering them into multiple incarnations of individual identity. The silently throbbing space invites festival goers to step inside and take a break from the incessant stream of beats, to reflect upon light and space in the desert, and to experiment with the selfie amongst the perpetual permutations the work offers on a constantly shifting basis. The artwork and the people who populate it at any given time become one unified and pulsating heartbeat amidst vast chaos.

 

The Tower of Twelve Stories by Jimenez Lai

Taiwan-born Los Angeles architect and founder of Bureau Spectacular Jimenez Lai is known for his experimentations in turning traditional design on its head and infusing the concurrent creations with a sense of engagement, and often, whimsy. For Coachella, he created The Tower of Twelve Stories, a 20-foot tall body of various interplaying shapes, which has been seemingly cut in half to expose the volumes within. During the day, the large piece casts an enormous shadow onto the grass creating an escape from the glaring sun. At night, the cartoon-like attributes of the piece come alive as various lights and projections play across its myriad faces, outlines and concaves. In one glance you might see a monochrome white nod to the Swiss cheese architecture of uber-architect Rem Koolhaus and in another you may find a compilation of aqua swimming pools hovering in space.

 

R&R Studios 

R&R Studios, the collaborative Miami-based office of Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt is a multidisciplinary practice weaving together visual arts, design, architecture, and urbanism. Celebrated, as one critic put it “as architects of hope,” their works propose encounters of stories and spaces. With Besame Mucho, they respond to being site-specific in California, a place they connect with free love and flower power and a sense of liberation notably “West Coast.” The sentiment is displayed through 100,000 silk flowers in shades of passion across a 130-foot long by 28-foot tall wall that changes colors from day to night with the help of jovial alternating light projections. Many Coachella goers could be seen over the first three-day weekend of the festival kissing beneath the work as if it were a more hip and contemporary version of the mistletoe. 

The works will be on display this upcoming weekend for the final three days of Coachella Arts and Music Festival, the temporariness adding a tinge of the precious to the existence of these six extraordinary pieces.

 

Kimberly Nichols is an artist, writer, and social anthropologist in Los Angeles, California. Her conceptual works, literary fiction and creative nonfiction have been exhibited and published internationally. She is the author of the critically acclaimed collection of short stories Mad Anatomy (Del Sol Press, 2005) and is currently writing a second book.

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Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

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