A Mirage of Color and Light in the Desert
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs
through December 15
Written by Genie Davis
Shimmering like a desert mirage, Brave New Worlds: An Exploration of Space, at the Palm Springs Art Museum through December 15th, is a highly textural mixed media exhibit that dazzles with invention and hypnotizes with its other-worldly-vibe.
The group show features the work of five contemporary artists working in a wide range of materials. Taken as a whole, the exhibition draws viewers into an immersive space that combines sculptural wall art with free-standing sculptural pieces.
Although the title and theme refer to an off-earth environment, the works also reflect the aesthetic of the desert: filled with light, spare and sometimes stark, evoking an adaptation of life in a unique environment, and the beauty that adaptation can create.
They are highly tactile works, even sensual – one feels the urge to touch the objects, to explore them physically. The exhibiting artists include Kelly Akashi, Gisela Colon, Victoria Fu, Karen Lofgren, and Adee Roberson.
Divided into separate installation spaces, the artists’ works each share a strong visceral sensation. Some include soundscapes and video, others use purely sculptural materials. The distinct look of each artist’s work is an interesting contrast to the cohesive theme of the exhibition, making viewers feel as if they have entered a different realm while strolling through the galleries.
The show’s curators have done a terrific job of setting a tone for the exhibition, which pulls viewers further and further into the immersive environment the deeper they walk through the connected main galleries.
The wall sculptures by Colon are particularly riveting, and among the first image seen. Opalescent, they shimmer with light and color, seeming to trap a mysterious life form inside their iridescence. Most are oval or oblong in shape, and feature more concentrated color at the core of each work. They remind the viewer of gemstones, and yet also have a gestational quality that evokes the origins of some mysterious life form.
Akashi creates highly tactile installations from glass, metal, and wood that build off natural forms and objects. In one stunning work, a disembodied, perfectly realistic hand floats its shadow across a ruby colored, crystalline base. All her work here emphasizes a sense of fluidity and contrast. Locally, Akashi’s work is on exhibit at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in mid-city through August 30th.
Fu, working in digital video and photography, offers up a colorful, dreamlike installation that appears to transport viewers into a different dimension, a kind of light-filled portal.
Lofgren’s stark and graceful cast aluminum and mixed media sculptures are both fragile and tough, often depicting images of nature. Her work “Like This I See You In Dreams (como lo cura, locura)” depicts polyurethane castings of medicinal plant leaves from the Amazon, while the thin, mysterious cubist sculpture of “Pulling Through, A Softer Index #10” invites viewers to contemplate a framework that looks as if it marked a secret passage. Her work is inspired in part by a period of living in the Amazon rainforest, as well as early experiences on an archipelago of the Toronto Islands.
Roberson utilizes a mesmerizing mix of archival images with sonic elements, shaping them into performances and sculptural paintings. The Florida-born, Los Angeles-based artist incorporates elements that are deeply personal, connected by both history and emotion.
In each of the artists’ work, color, light, and physicality take on aspects of the spiritual and embrace nature both known – leaves, tree branches, hands, faces – and unknown, in strange shapes, frozen opaque pools, the outlines of unseen structures, making these explorations of space well worth undertaking.