Tag Archives: doug aitken

“Mirage” at Desert X

Like a shiny extra-terrestrial bobble tucked into the foothills above Palm Springs, “Mirage” by Los Angeles-based artist Doug Aitken is among the most striking contemporary-art experiences of 2017. It’s probably the unofficial rockstar of Desert X, an inaugural exhibition of site-specific artworks mostly in the form of installations and sculptural objects spread across the desert landscape of the Coachella Valley.

“Mirage” is a literal house of mirrors. Its loose architectural form is a single-story ranch house in a nod to the region’s traditional housing style. But it’s a ranch house with a shape augmented by contemporary touches – a skylight, a balcony, a window-less chamber.

All that architecture is just a platform for Aitken’s bold visual statement and its main feature: The mirrored surfaces of the house inside and out. The exterior walls, and interior walls and ceilings, are mirrors reflecting the desert landscape outside and multiplying the reflections inside like a silverlight echo chamber. It is not enough to look at it.

Walking through “Mirage” is to be entranced by the unceasing play of light from every angle and reflective pane and by the all the possibilities in reframing your view of the bright desert outside through the house’s many windows 

Hot Mess

“Hot Mess” is the title of an artwork by Doug Aitken that features a beautiful photograph showing an aeriel view of the Las Vegas strip at night.  The image is displayed as a back-lit circular framed object mounted to the gallery wall. At the center of the photo, just above the bright lights of the city, is the title of the artwork in a standard serif font.

There’s humor in this artwork, one of dozens currently on view as part of the artist’s massive retrospective exhbition “Electric Earth” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a.k.a., MOCA, in downtown Los Angeles. “Hot Mess” is part of series of circular photographic works that marry text and image in intriguing and ironic ways. In the case of this piece, the words evoke and connect several notions about Las Vegas.

Vegas is a unique and strange city among America’s big cities, and for that matter it’s unlike any city in the world in ways that are both obvious and not-so-obvious. As a tourist  in the unlikeliest of geographical places, Vegas has traded on its image of being home to relatively legalized vice and moral laxity when it comes to these. Gambling, partying, hotel resort travel, and various types of adult entertainment (in addition to entertainment in general), plus a slew of massive trade shows and conventions, and flamboyant, whimsical architecture — all in the middle of the desert — make the city singular and a kind of “mess” culturally and symbolically.

The term evokes the idea of somebody or a thing that is scatterred, disorganized, troubled and possibly pathological. Vergas can seem like that. Much like a freshly spewed pile of vomit — from which the term “hot mess” is metaphorically derived — on the pavement from a drunk college student after chugging too many Jager shots. And Vegas is kind of like that. But it’s only one facet.

And yet, it has its own beauty. Seen from afar, like many cities and in the photo in Aitken’s artwork, Vegas appears like a glittery jewel, a Mikly Way galaxy of neon and LED coalesced into a distant blur of energy, enterprise, and urbanized humanity.

Doug Aitken’s Glowing Pay Phone at MOCA … Los Angeles

This glowing, LED-illuminated sculpture of an old-school pay phone is by artist Doug Aitken. It’s titled “Twilight,” and it’s absolutely sublime. The artwork is one of dozens upon dozens of works by Aitken currently on view as part of his “Electric Earth” retrospective at MOCA Los Angeles. The exhibition is a must see. “Twilight” itself is an evocative object. The resin-cast sculpture generates a soft, cool light that beckons like a visual siren from the far end of a cavernous side gallery within MOCA’s gargantuan architectural footprint. It stands mysterious and totemic like a forgotten relic from the time before cellphones were ubiquitous, infused with a strange loneliness.