2016’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival kicked off this weekend in typical fashion: hit and under-sung musical acts playing late into the night, torturous sunshine interrupted by shade-giving monumental art. Amid the raucous tumult of teenagers and festival bros were a collection of large artworks commissioned specifically for the festival, running two weekends in a row. The seven monumental works by seven invited artists create interactive structures meant to complement the festival’s musical offerings and run the gamut from dank man caves to an ever-changing array of colorful balloons floating in the wind.
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Jimenez Lai brings his The Tower of Twelve Stories to Coachella, a 52-foot-tall sectional model made up of a mess of stacked platonic bubbles. Inspired by the Lenoard Cohen song, “Tower of Song,” Lai’s work also takes inspiration from theories on the American skyscraper, from Rem Koolhaas’s notions of its genericism to Louis Sullivan’s prescriptions of classical proportioning for the type. The structure contains embedded lights and glows from within at night.
Cuban artist Alexandre Arrechea’s Katrina Chairs utilize steel frames clad in plywood to create a sextet of bright yellow lawn chairs topped with stacks of Soviet-era, prefabricated apartment blocks. The monumental work takes its name from the disastrous storm that hit New Orleans in 2005 that gives the work resonant symbolism: it asks in surreal irony if one chair can hold an entire community above water.
Phillp L. Smith’s Portals uses mirrored members to create a 85-foot-wide circular room around a large tree. This room is punctuated by fluorescently lit Space and Light era-inspired geometric niche sculptures. A planter containing the tree comes with incorporated seating.
Wife and husband team Katrīna Neiburga and Andris Eglītis from Latvia repurpose scrapped wood and other building materials to create their two-storied The Armpit, an homage to the Latvian equivalent of the “man cave.” The installation fetishizes Latvian male’s tendency to crave time alone in the garage and upends a traditionally masculine space by allowing the view to peer into the cave and observe scenes of male solitude and domestic intimacy.
Architecture-trained Argentine artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt take inspiration from the Mexican bolero song, ¡Bésame Mucho!, for their silk flower-clad monumental text sculpture of the same name.
Coachella-based artists Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez, collaborating as The Date Farmers, evoke the Mexican migrant farm worker with their work, Sneaking into the Show, a Chicano Art-inspired totem showcasing a duo of migrant workers and their plow.
Lastly, Robert Bose’s Balloon Chain utilizes variously colored balloons strung together with attached LED lights to create a responsive amorphous sculpture that billows along with the hot desert winds.