Artworks of the Week

Noah Purifoy

An influential figure in the Los Angeles Black Arts Movement, Noah Purifoy’s earliest sculptures were constructed from the charred debris of the 1965 Watts rebellion. Following the uprising, Purifoy dedicated himself to art’s potential as a tool for social change. In 1989 he moved to Joshua Tree, where he created more than 100 works across ten acres in the desert. Purifoy’s “outdoor museum” is constructed entirely from discarded materials and is one of Southern California’s great art historical wonders. His untitled relief in the collection of Palm Springs Art Museum was created there and features numerous junkyard elements, such as radiator parts and polished plaques.

By creating surprisingly elegant and balanced compositions out of detritus, Purifoy used these objects as referents to the rest of the world, saying “I don’t thoroughly understand my relationship with the human being. But I do thoroughly understand the function of a radiator.”

noah purifoy

Noah Purifoy, Untitled, 1995, Mixed media assemblage mounted on canvas-backed plywood, 66 × 46 × 3 in., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Palmer Dale and Isabel Camacho Diamond.

Louise Bourgeois

Spiders have been a recurring theme in the work of Louise Bourgeois since the late 1940s when she depicted them in a portfolio of etchings called Ode à Ma Mère (Ode to My Mother). While many may see spiders as menacing, even terrifying, Bourgeois thought of them positively—as guardians, protectors, makers. Her parents had a business repairing and restoring tapestries, and her mother spent a great deal of time mending. Like her mother, the spider is a repairer, spinning her web and constantly reweaving and repairing it. Bourgeois often used the spider in her artwork as a metaphor for her mother and described her mother being as neat and useful as a spider. In the 1990s, spiders reappeared in Bourgeois’s work but as sculptures, many of them monumental in scale. Some, like this one in the collection of Palm Springs Art Museum, crawl up the surface of a gallery wall, while others are large enough to walk underneath. One of Bourgeois’s best-known sculptures is a giant spider called Maman (1999).

louise bourgeois's spider on a wall in a gallery

Louise Bourgeois, Spider II, 1995, Bronze, edition 4/6, 73 × 73 × 22 1/2 in., 75th Anniversary gift of Donna J. MacMillan.