Welcome to Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture—a Junk Dada electronic wasteland set on a ten-acre stretch of parched land in Joshua Tree, California.
The high desert terrain is one of striking contrast and inclement weather: summer days soar above one-hundred-degrees, and winter nights plunge to below freezing. Sandstorm winds clap against Purifoy’s now-rusted and weathered sculptures.
These are ideal conditions for a museum designed and intended to self-destruct, a sort of post-apocalyptic installation art that aliens might’ve erected to exemplify the materialism of humankind on earth before we became extinct.
Purifoy, a co-founder of the Watts Towers Art Center, is known for his role in the Watts Rebellion and for using art as a tool for social change. In 1989, at seventy-two-years-old, Purifoy moved from Los Angeles into an RV in Joshua Tree and began to make art from other people's trash. By his death in 2004, Purifoy had built a dystopian city of over one-hundred large-scale Neo-Dada sculptures, amid cacti and the eponymous Joshua trees, constructed entirely out of junked materials.
It’s a playground that capsulizes and reinterprets the everyday objects, habits and lifestyles of a fifteen-year span of American life. Visitors are free to roam this decayed Dada museum, unsupervised, and there is no entry fee, just an unattended donation box.
Instead of preserving his art for market value, Purifoy encouraged the force of time and nature and people to participate in his creative process—a choice in line with Purifoy’s anti-commercial, punk approach to institutionalized art and the art world at large. After decades of corrosion, photographer Aaron Purkey takes us on a photo tour of this eerie electronic and junk graveyard plopped, dramatically, smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert.