The craziest art I ever did see. And yet it spoke to me. It’s provocative. And that’s just what Noah Purifoy seems to have in mind during his creations in the form of assemblage sculpture. Where Brecada’s large metal sculptures are a skill of welding, Purifoy’s art comes from the mind, and maybe sometimes the dump as he typically uses reclaimed materials. Interpretations are up to the viewer.
After five days exploring and camping in Joshua Tree National Park I’d spent the night for free on BLM just north of the town of Joshua Tree. A Park Ranger gave me good directions to the BLM and also recommended Noah Purifoy’s nearby Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture.
Born in Snow Hill, Alabama in 1917, Noah was a high school industrial arts teacher and social worker before becoming an artist. After serving in the South Pacific during WWII he moved to Los Angeles where he earned a degree in fine arts in 1956 and became the founder and first director of the Watts Towers Art Center in the 1960s. While serving on the California Arts Council he created the Artist-in-Communities, –Schools and –Prisons programs. In 1989, Noah moved to Joshua Tree, California where he filled ten acres with his sculptures until his death in 2004.
Noah is credited with re-defining black artistic consciousness through assemblage sculpture. Along with six other artists after the 1965 Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles he helped create 66 Signs of Neon, a traveling exhibition made from two tons of debris from the city.
“I hope my work provides inspiration for a person to do today what they couldn’t do yesterday, no matter what it is. That’s art. That’s the fundamental creative process and it’s something that changes people and empowers them.” –Noah Purifoy
Noah’s work can be seen as a unique public art experience in the high desert as he deeded his estate to the Noah Purifoy Foundation for preservation, public visitation, and exhibition. The Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art is open to the public and free of charge. A self-guided tour brochure is available near the mailboxes upon entering and guided tours are available for groups with advance reservations by calling 213-382-7516. Donations are gladly accepted.
How to get there. From Highway 62 in Joshua Tree, California north on Sunburst past the elementary school, right on Golden, left on Border, right on Aberdeen and left on Center. Most roads are gravel but doable in any vehicle. Thanks to Ranger Nick at Joshua Tree National Park for this interesting recommendation.
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