Though born in Snow Hill, Alabama in 1917, Noah Purifoy lived most of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California, where he died in 2004. The exhibition of his work, Junk Dada, at LACMA in 2015 as well as the recent publication by Steidl of his notebooks and essays in High Desert, have contributed to the legacy of this long-overlooked artist who first came to prominence with sculpture assembled from the debris of the Watts Rebellion of 1965.
In the last fifteen years of his life Purifoy lived in the Mojave Desert where he created large-scale sculptures spread over ten acres. On visiting this site Hannah Collins made a series of exquisite black-andwhite photographic studies of Purifoy’s work. Her rigorous aesthetic stance is unwittingly reminiscent of the formality of Walker Evans, who would have greatly appreciated Purifoy’s transformation of discarded materials into grand yet vernacular forms.
Message from the Interior, Walker Evans’ photographic study of 1966, which through the selection of a handful of pictures of interiors suggests a wide and disparate landscape, became a model for the publication of Collins’ work from Purifoy’s site. Her 18 photographs are presented here in a format that exactly echoes Evans’ publication, both typographically and spatially. The intention is not imitative, but refers to the grandeur and scale achieved by Purifoy. Cumulatively his work becomes a transitory monument inevitably destined to decay into the desert itself.
You can pre-order the book here
18 black and white photographs shot using a large format camera are exhibited alongside a sound installation which examines the period from 1958 - 1970 both in California and further afield. During this period Noah Purifoy an African American sculptor who had come from Alabama to Los Angeles lived and worked as a social catalyst and artist. In a momentous time of change Purifoy developed both his social and cultural ideas which were in evidence during the final period of his life when he moved to Joshua Tree in the California Desert and created a sculptural installation there made entirely of repurposed objects. The soundtrack accompanying the images is made up of the voices of those who took part in the events of the 60s recalling and recounting some of the forces at work. Those interviewed include Ed Bereal, Ben Caldwell, Emory Douglas, Samella Lewis, John Outterbridge and Ed Ruscha. An accompanying artist book creates a link between the photographs of Walker Evans that recalled the vernacular of the South and Hannah collins’ recording of Purifoy’s reimagined spaces, the book will be produced by Steidl publishers during 2017.
For more details please see the gallery website here