Friday, December 04, 2015

Seeing the Light at the Palm Springs Art Museum

At the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Baristo in downtown Palm Springs, a Midcentury Modern classic by architect E. Stewart Williams was built in 1960 for Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan. By the 21st century, it was a decaying mess that housed the offices of local real estate developer John Wessman who is now defacing another section of Palm Canyon Drive with a taxpayer-funded hotel and shopping mall complex.

Wessman's original plans for the historic building was to surround it with multi-story condos, which the Planning Commission and preservationists managed to prevent. About four years ago, the Palm Springs Art Museum bought the building and raised close to $4 million for its restoration as an Architecture and Design Center annex to the larger museum three blocks away.

The Center opened last year, and the place looks tremendous.

Currently on view is an exhibit called Seeing the Light: Illuminating Objects featuring "reflective, translucent, or highly polished" art works.

You are greeted at the door by Hess Light Bulb, a large prop from theater-opera director Robert Wilson's 1979 stagework Death, Destruction, and Detroit I.

Inventor Buckminster Fuller, another multi-hyphenate lionized in the 1970s, was represented by and his 1976 metallic Complex of Jitterbugs.

There was a section of the exhibit dedicated to powerful women's work, including Angela Ellsworth's Seer Bonnet XVIII (Ruth) from 2011. Ellsworth is a Church of Latter Day Saints apostate who is a descendent of Lorenzo Snow, the fifth Prophet of the Mormon Church.

Lorenzo had nine wives, and Ellsworth has created a series of sunbonnets representing all of them. The materials for Ruth are fabric, steel, wood, and 31,863 pearl corsage pins. It's outrageously beautiful and horrifying simultaneously.

Hanging hearby is Pat Lasch's 2006 A Couple's Prayer (from the Prayer Cloth Series), a series of gold leaf squares on netting backed by heavy Arches paper with Buddhist prayers sealed inside, meditating on her recently deceased parents.

The only walls in the exhibit are two panels displaying Jim Isermann's metallic decals.

The Center just announced that admission will be free every day for the next two years thanks to an anonymous donor. So if you are in Palm Springs, check it out, and maybe you will be greeted by one of the sweet museum "ambassadors" like Betsy above, who looked smashing in front of the fabulous blinds.


Hattie said...

I love the clean lines of this building and the photo of the stripy lady. said...

I was hoping they would do more exhibits on architecture.... seems obvious, for a museum of architecture. Maybe next year. (The original show on E Stewart Williams was excellent)

Civic Center said...

Dear Philip: Agree with you about architecture exhibits, but enjoyed the light, airy art exhibit partly because it showed off the newly restored building so well.