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High Desert Test Sites 2022
April 9, 2022 - May 22, 2022
If you’re driving in the high desert this month, you may come across a towering sculptural figure perched on a shipping container. You might also see the words “THE END OF THE WORLD” in billboard-size sculptural letters as you zip down the highway. The pieces are part of High Desert Test Site’s 2022 biennial The Searchers, for which nine artists have created sculptures, installations, and video works located across the high desert..
Commissioned by HDTS and curated by Alona Blazwick, artworks have been installed on the side of the highway, off rocky dirt roads, in community centers, and on BLM land. Some are viewable from main roads, while others take a bit more gumption and wayfinding to access. Rachel Whiteread’s Shack I and Shack II are concrete casts of abandoned homestead cabins, with the permanent sculptures nestled off of a particularly bumpy dirt road among other structures, framed in by Joshua trees. About 50 miles up the road, Alice Channer’s Rockpool is an organically-shaped, 8-inch tall sculpture that stretches 60 feet across the desert landscape and is filled in with salt rocks, modeling the form of aerial photos of the BP oil spill. Gerald Clarke’s Earth Memory is a field of hundreds of flags, each emblazoned with a fish that used to swim in the now-dry Sunfair Dry Lake Bed where the work is installed. A gust of wind prompts the flag tails to swim in unison.
The desert landscape makes for an art viewing experience that is dramatically more embodied than your average gallery jaunt. Sunscreen, hats, water, and know-how of how to dig your car out of a sand trap are prerequisites for viewing these artworks. But the journey becomes as much a part of the experience as the works themselves, each one offering a sense of arrival and an opportunity to pause and commune with the landscape.
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Photo: Jack Pierson, The End of the World installed in 29 Palms as part of High Desert Test Sites. Photo: Lindsay Preston Zappas.