Detouring to ‘Desert X’ in the Coachella Valley

Sterling Ruby’s SPECTER | Photo: Kristin Lim

If you’re headed to southern California soon, be sure to take a detour and experience some of the 19 art installations dotted throughout the Coachella Valley as part of Desert X.

Now in its second edition, Desert X is a biennial outdoor exhibition that takes place throughout the desert, about two hours east of Los Angeles. It features site-specific installations by established and emerging contemporary artists and collectives. This year’s focus is on environmental issues including climate change and the shrinking Salton Sea.

When we visited, some installations were closed due to rare torrential rains and flooding, others were open only on the weekend and others, still, like Cara Romero’s billboards, were viewed only in passing while driving along the highway.

Noteworthy installations include: Sterling Ruby’s SPECTER, a striking shipping container-like, fluorescent orange block, completely out of place in an expansive desert landscape (pictured above); A Point of View, a group of five staircases by Ivan Argote, allowing visitors a view of the Salton Sea; Eric N. Mack’s stylistic use of fabric draped over a defunct gas station in Halter; Katie Ryan’s Ghost Palm, a tree made of steel, plastic, and glass; and Pia Camil’s Lover’s Rainbow made of rebar. Another one of her rainbows can be found on the Mexican side of the border.

The experience can start to feel a bit like a scavenger hunt, so do some research before venturing out. Check out the website — there’s an app to download in order to view some works on your smartphone, and once there, stop in at one of the hubs (eg. Ace Hotel in Palm Springs) for more information.

Desert X is on until April 21st and is free and open to the public.

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