Let me begin by quoting Homer Simpson (or at Tim Long who wrote the lyrics) and his song “I Love to Walk” - ironic, huh?
Oh, I love to perambulate,
It's standing still I really hate.
So let me please reiterate:
I love to—
I’ll eventually explain the relevance of that remark.
I’m always interested in the odd way that people walk in art galleries – soberly, quietly, with reverence, a little hesitantly, showing off the fact that they’re serious about this whole art business. And I’m no different. My walking in art galleries is as inauthentic as anybody else’s. But the consequence is that after about an hour of this kind of non-standard walking your feet are sore, your legs and back are aching, and you’re in need of a sit down in the museum cafe. If you’d done an hour’s walking in the real world you’d be fine, but a short walk on the hard floors of a gallery just gets to you.
One “art space” I know where things are very different is the Noah Purifoy Foundation in Joshua Tree, a ten acre open air desert sculpture park (so much more fun than that sounds) where you tread the sand of the Mojave desert. Walking around there is somehow very much easier.
Lately however, there’s been a Noah Purifoy show at the LACMA (that’s the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – a name they rarely use cos I suspect they think it sounds a bit square). This exhibition partly involved bringing some of the outdoors in. Certain of Purifoy’s outdoor works had been transported to the museum gallery from the desert.
Frankly I was a bit worried about this, I thought the move to the interior of a formal art gallery might diminish Purifoy’s work. And certainly I think the works they’ve got at LACMA look as though they’ve been seriously cleaned up, a thing that Purifoy himself never did to them.
On balance I think the exhibition just about got away with it. I think the sculptures look very much better out in the wilds, in their natural habitat, but they still look pretty good in a museum too.
LACMA wasn’t crowded on the day I was there, and of course I looked closely at at Noah Purifoy’s art, but inevitably I also observed the few other people in the gallery, seeing at how they walked. And I was looking at this one guy – surprisingly well-developed calves (maybe walkers’ calves), and with a Band-Aid on one shin.