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Photos: These Desert Billboards Show The Landscape They're Blocking
Along the Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs stand several stocky, industrial poles with the Lamar billboards logo at the top. Instead of an advertisement above the logo, though, there's only the landscape. The desert mountain view continues uninterrupted. Look a little closer, though, and a rectangle of the view is sharper and less smoggy. The view isn't interrupted, after all. Those poles still have billboards attached to them, but instead of advertising the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, they're advertising the land we've taken for granted.
The billboards are part of the new Palm Springs-based art exhibition known as Desert X. The exhibition is in its first year, and the goal is to incorporate art into the Palm Springs geography in order to illuminate the social, environmental, and cultural conditions of the 21st century. Jennifer Bolande is the artist behind these billboards, which are officially called Visible Distance. They draw from theiconic Burma Shave advertising campaign that used sequential billboard messaging to create an experience only accessible via a moving vehicle. The billboards show a segment of the distant landscape that, when approached via car, matches up in perfect alignment to the horizon.
Bolande often works in sculptural photography, where she examines patterns of light and shape to draw new conclusions from objects and spaces appearing in everyday life. These billboards extend this practice while adding an exploration of the relationship between commodification and the environment. The interplay of geography, landscape, and contemporary materialism is a frequent theme in Southern California-based contemporary art. From Ed Ruscha's examination of L.A.'s mundane aesthetics in Every Building on the Sunset Strip to Mark Bradford's visceral interpretations of L.A.'s burning insides in Scorched Earth, psychogeography remains a relevant endeavor for SoCal artists. The effects of climate change and the drought in California imbue these themes with more urgent environmental commentary, which is the path Desert X is aiming to explore.
The exhibits will remain on display until April 30 and are free to the public.
Visible Distance is located on the Gene Autry Trail exit off the 10 freeway, about 2 hours east of downtown Los Angeles.