Matt Johnson | Desert X, Coachella Valley, CA

March 4 – May 7, 2023

More information on the exhibition

Matt Johnson 

Participating in
Desert X, Coachella Valley, CA 

Curated by Artistic Director Neville Wakefield and Co-Curator Diana Campbell 

Desert X, the recurring site-specific, international art exhibition, opens its fourth edition at sites across the Coachella Valley, CA, with a newly-commissioned work by Los Angeles-based artist Matt Johnson. 

Renowned for his wry marriages of everyday subjects with raw physical matter, Johnson’s sculptures explore the paradox of visual forms through unorthodox and surprising materials. Whether rendering concentric hula hoops in steel to resemble nuclear diagrams, or plastic beer cups in painted bronze, Johnson’s sculptures point not only to the gestural potential of consumer experience, but to the primitive connection humans have to materiality. Recently focusing on wood carvings of crumpled objects of refuse, Johnson’s painstaking renderings of crushed boxes, broken Styrofoam pads, and smashed plastic present tossed-off remnants of everyday life as sublime formalism. 

Sleeping Figure might be a cubist rendition of a classical odalisque, except here the cubes are shipping containers belonging to the globalized movement of goods and trade. Conceived at the time when a Japanese-owned, Taiwanese-operated, German-managed, Panamanian-flagged, and Indian-manned container behemoth found itself for six days under Egyptian jurisdiction while blocking the Suez Canal, Johnson’s figure speaks to the crumples and breaks of a supply chain economy in distress. Situated along the main artery connecting the Port of Los Angeles to the inland United States, the sculpture gains local relevance from the recently approved siting of distribution centers in the north of Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs. Casual and laconic, it overlooks the landscape reminding us that the invisible hand of globalism now connected to its container body has come to rest in the Coachella Valley. 

About Desert X

Desert X was conceived to produce recurring international contemporary art exhibitions that activate desert locations through site-specific installations by acclaimed international artists. Its guiding purposes and principles include presenting public exhibitions of art that respond meaningfully to the conditions of desert locations, the environment, and indigenous communities; promoting cultural exchange and education programs that foster dialogue and understanding among cultures and communities about shared artistic, historical, and societal issues; and providing an accessible platform for artists from around the world to address ecological, cultural, spiritual, and other existential themes. 

Desert X 2023 will activate the desert landscape through 12 installations by artists from Europe, North America, and South Asia, whose poetic and immersive works span sculpture, painting, photography, writing, architecture, design, film, music, performance and choreography, education, and environmental activism. The exhibition is free and open to all. 

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