Many artists, academics, and critics regard the late Noah Purifoy (1917-2004) as one of the most renowned American sculptors who worked in assemblage art.
On June 7, LACMA will begin exhibiting a monographic exhibition of his works called Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada, curated by Franklin Sirmans and Yael Lipschutz.
The show reveals his finely tuned artistry, a soulmate to Marcel Duchamp and Louise Nevelson, a man whose creative gifts and spirit of inquiry led him through a series of explorations in art and philosophy.
But what a lot of people don't realize is that there is already a monumental permanent exhibition six miles from the heart of Joshua Tree called the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture, where the public can also learn about Purifoy's artistic vision during the last 15 years of his life, and it's all under the open sky.
Contrary to what some think when they happen upon Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Museum, 10 acres in the desert of Joshua Tree, the man was not one of those eccentric self-taught artists.
In fact, he was well-educated, with degrees in social work and in the fine arts, the latter from the Chouinard Art Institute, and he was the co-founder of the Watts Tower Art Center.
His artistic practice was galvanized by the Watts Rebellion, a moment when he understood with stark clarity how his personal and professional goals as an artist diverged from his sense of responsibility to the African American community of his adopted city. He began to wonder what the value of an artistic practice could be to a community ravaged by poverty and brutality, and whether his participation in an art world oriented toward social elites might mean that he was complicit in the oppression of his own people.
Though primarily recognized as an assemblage artist, his commitment to community-based art education prefigures a movement toward social practice which has activated art's relationship to audiences over the past two decades.
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