Noah Purifoy: Joshua Tree Art on the Miracle Mile

The desert dreamer's work is on display, at LACMA.

When the 10 Freeway bridge near Desert Center recently washed out, shuttering the east-west artery for several days, a flurry of articles sprung up detailing how travelers could make the most of their lengthier re-routes, sightseeing-wise.

Salton Sea vistas were suggested for drivers heading along the southern routes, and to the north, near Joshua Tree? The artwork of Noah Purifoy, which stands in the open air of the open desert, was recommended as a main must-visit.

But admiring Mr. Purifoy's sometimes whimsical, often starkly symbolic, frequently large-scale sculptures is as easy as visiting the Miracle Mile, as least into early fall. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has brought much of the artist's work to Wilshire Boulevard, in an expansive exhibit on view through Sept. 27.

The "Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada" features dozens of pieces created by the founding director of the Watts Tower Art Center. One of the most moving parts of the exhibit is Mr. Purifoy's study of the aftermath of the Watts Riots of 1965. Mr. Purifoy was a central creator in "66 Signs of Neon," "a landmark group exhibition on the riots that traveled throughout the country," says The Noah Purifoy Foundation.

The arid spaces near Joshua Tree National Park became Mr. Purifoy's home, and work space, in his later life. And his outdoor works have lived on, staying in place well over a decade after his passing, tended to by fans and his foundation and those who care about protecting this seminal Californian artist's creative legacy and what his found object-laden art has meant to the desert he loved.

Absolutely, a journey to Mr. Purifoy's idiosyncratic, whimsical, and thought-provoking Joshua Tree Art Museum should be made to gain the full art experience. The 10 Freeway re-route likely introduced some new fans to the unusual open-air exhibit, but a re-route should not be the only reason for going. Rather, think of a weekend adventure to Mr. Purifoy's amazing wonderland as a fresh way to have fresh eyes for fresh areas of California.

But an art fan can start their journey at LACMA, on the Miracle Mile in LA, where the work of this innovative thinker and doer and compiler-of-profound-and-everyday-objects is on display.

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