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Visual Arts

26 Jun 2015
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An imposing, highly polished, ebony concert grand piano confronts all visitors to Ruth Gonzales’ workshop. Consuming a third of the available space, the piano would make more sense in a music conservatory than an abstract painter’s studio space. However, a quick look at the remaining space shouts: An artist works here! Palette knives, brushes, mortars-and-pestles, paints and other tools of her craft populate the atelier. All of remaining spaces are lined with large, partly completed canvases. One yet-to-be stretched painting can be found flat on the floor, just a few steps from the front door. Gonzales was born, raised and trained as a classical figurative artist in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, three hours south of the Arizona/Mexico border. The artist worked as a missionary in Southern Mexico and spent time in Tijuana before moving to this desert in 1990. The artist’s classical training presents itself in her abstractions: forms are suggested,…
25 May 2015
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“The minority residents of Section 14 … homes were destroyed by a city-engineered holocaust,” wrote Loren Miller Jr. in a 1968 report to the state attorney general. Bordered by Alejo and Ramon roads, Indian Canyon Drive and Sunrise Way, Section 14 is one square mile. Today, it’s one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in all of the Coachella Valley. The current exhibit at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, Section 14: The Other Palm Springs, offers a compelling account of how one Native American tribe produced its future despite its past. The sequencing of blown-up maps and newspaper clippings (most with embedded pictures) creates a narrative. Quotes from government officials provide greater context. However, the depth and raw accounting of the Agua Caliente’s existence comes from period pictures, quotes from tribal members and council leaders’ oral histories. Featuring a series of oversized maps, the front room chronicles the…
04 May 2015
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An exhibit of the works of either Ansel Adams or Dorothea Lange is a “must see.” However, it approaches artistic nirvana when a museum hangs images by both icons in the same show. The La Quinta Museum is doing just that right now in the exhibit Iconic Light, on display through Aug. 15. The two greats were contemporaries; in fact, they both served as photography faculty at the California School of Fine Arts. Adams’ black-and-white photographs remain visionary and meticulous. His images more than communicate the beauty of the American landscape and wilderness; they speak to his lifelong commitment as a conservationist. His photos here, taken at the Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center near Palm Desert, do not disappoint. Adams’ image of a cholla cactus is beautifully eerie. In the foreground, a single tall cholla stands in front of what appears to be a boulder. The lighting creates an…
27 Mar 2015
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Who would endeavor to elevate the lowly, utilitarian dish rag into a highly collectible art form? The Japanese would—and the reasons why can be discovered at Woodman/Shimko Gallery in Palm Springs. Dating back to 800 AD, tenugui, first made in woven silk, were used use in religious rituals. By the early 19th century, tenugui became a prop for storytellers as part of a comical monologue or a traditional story. When Japan began to cultivate cotton during the 1800s, tenugui were transformed into a household necessity to be washed and reused—artistic dish towels, in other words. The size of tenugui have not changed since the ninth century: Each is 35 by 90 centimeters, or roughly 13 3/4 by 35 1/2 inches. “I received my first tenugui as a gift,” said Woody Shimko, of Woodman/Shimko Gallery. “It was a hand towel that had three Japanese words: tree, grove, forest. I was hooked.…
02 Mar 2015
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The tale told by Jennifer Karady: In Country, Soldiers’ Stories From Iraq and Afghanistan, a powerful photography exhibit now on display at the Palm Springs Art Museum, has three parts; however, gallery visitors get to see only two. We see the prologue, which lets us know what occurs prior to soldiers being deployed. We see the epilogue, in which we meet members of the military after they return to their homes. What happens in between—the events and their experiences during their tours of duty—is left to the viewer’s imagination. This forces us to create our own narrative; it creates a palpable tension. The exhibition appropriately takes up most of the gallery space on the museum’s lower floor. Karady begins her narrative in the long, narrow Jorgensen Gallery—a confined space that forces visitors to view each image on its own terms. The 17 smaller images, plus some Polaroid pictures, presented in…
17 Feb 2015
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As I stepped onto the back patio of Modernism Week’s Christopher Kennedy Compound on Yosemite Drive in Palm Springs, the view of the nearby golf course and the San Jacinto Mountains was breathtaking. The home and its furnishings weren’t bad, either. Tour guides explain that the home was purchased by Kennedy, with the rooms done by various interior designers, whose credits appear on wall plaques. When I stepped into the living room, the first thing I noticed was strange paintings. One depicted a half-dozen or so people in water—with a few of them looking horrified. Another featured a grinning man who looked like sci-fi author Isaac Asimov. The painting above the sofa? It showed a house in the middle of a flood, of course. (See below.) Moving down the hallway and into the master bedroom, you’ll find a gargantuan walk-in closet. The retro style, including decorative paper on the ceiling,…