California Today: Building Coachella’s Giant Art

Good morning.

(Want to get California Today by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Over the weekend, there’s a good chance your social media feeds were flooded with photos and video from Coachella.

Over the past two decades, the music festival has become a kind of unavoidable cultural juggernaut, famously spawning not just scores of imitators, but also an entire season on the fashion calendar.

This year, the monster name performances are almost secondary to stars’ semi-sanctioned offstage pursuits, like Donald Glover’s release of a new film, and Kanye West’s planned Easter morning “Sunday Service.”

Image
“Overview Effect,” an astronaut sculpture by Poetic Kinetics, founded by the artist Patrick Shearn, at Coachella.CreditValerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Still, Coachella’s full name is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival for a reason: Visual art has, from the beginning, been a major part of the event.

Like so much about the festival, mostly what’s changed is the scale.

“We’re designing these pieces so hopefully they’re having an impact on you, even peripherally, from sometimes as much as a quarter of a mile away,” Paul Clemente, the festival’s art director, told me late last week. “As the Coachella venue has been growing over the years, the art has had to grow with it.”

Four years ago, he said, his team started fabricating the installation pieces on-site, starting about six months ahead of time, which left only final assembly for the days leading up to the festival.

That, he said, has allowed them to build bigger.

And as soon as this year’s festival is over, the team will start looking for pieces for next year.

Image

Colossal Cacti, by the Los Angeles-based Office Kovacs, at Coachella.CreditValerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Clemente started working for Goldenvoice, which puts on the festival, in 2007, after more than 15 years working in film visual effects, including on “The Matrix.”

He said taking on a role with the festival was a natural transition, since both gigs involved using a variety of tools and media to make pieces that are specific to one site and one context.

Though some of the Coachella installations will eventually become permanent public art pieces in desert communities, Mr. Clemente said most of the pieces will be displayed only once.

The rise of Instagram, he said, has added another layer to that calculation.

“These are fleeting moments, here: To experience these shows and this art on this scale, you have to be here at Coachella,” Mr. Clemente said. “And people want to take away those images.”

Andrew Kovacs, who heads Office Kovacs, designed this year’s Colossal Cacti installation, a collection of boxy, candy-colored cactuses that stand as tall as 52 feet. He said Coachella was a unique opportunity to expose festivalgoers to architecture and design concepts they might not otherwise think much about.

“You don’t have to bring people to architecture, you can bring architecture to people,” he said.

Mr. Kovacs said his office’s piece was meant to be a fun, desert-inspired Instagram backdrop, but it also references Constructivism and Ricardo Legorreta.

Image

Sofia Enriquez’s installation, “Mismo,” at Coachella.CreditLance Gerber, Courtesy of Coachella

For Sofia Enriquez, a painter and clothing designer who was born and raised in the Coachella Valley, designing a piece for the festival was a chance to add a new skill to her repertoire: large-scale installations.

“They taught me how to weld,” she said.

Ms. Enriquez started visiting the Coachella Art Studios at the festival in high school.

Now 26, she said the experience helped her understand how to seek out resources and how to physically build a massive, three-dimensional sculpture. And Mr. Clemente said Ms. Enriquez’s work added a welcome local perspective to the festival’s art program.

Ms. Enriquez’s piece, “Mismo,” is a garden of six wooden paisleys, each with its own color scheme and lighting.

She said the idea was to choose a shape that cuts across cultures, ages and socioeconomic groups — from farm workers’ bandannas to silk ties, from things her grandmother stitches to the slinky tops young women wear to the fest.

“In this community out here, it’s interesting because there’s a lot of really wealthy people and there are a lot of families that are struggling — I grew up cleaning houses,” Ms. Enriquez said. But she said she’s come to believe that people share more similarities than they might realize. And that’s what she tries to draw out in her work.

“I try to see the equality in people.”

(We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times stories, but we’d also encourage you to support local news if you can.)

Image

Senator Kamala Harris at a house party in Des Moines last week.CreditCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Senator Kamala Harris released 15 years of tax returns on Sunday. Here’s how her income stacks up against other Democratic presidential candidates. [The New York Times]

• President Trump said his administration was “strongly considering” releasing migrants detained at the border in so-called sanctuary cities, like San Francisco, Representative Nancy Pelosi’s hometown. Department of Homeland Security officials have pushed back against the idea. [The New York Times]

A federal judge temporarily allowed the Trump administration’s policy of forcing asylum seekers to stay in Mexico as they wait for their cases to be heard. A lower-court ruling had blocked it. [The New York Times]

• And in an interview with “60 Minutes” Ms. Pelosi called for the release of the full Mueller report, and called on the president, once again, to release his tax returns. Watch it here. [CBS News]

Gov. Gavin Newsom asked a special “strike force” to make recommendations about how to mitigate the state’s wildfire risk. In the report that resulted, the governor asked lawmakers to “get something big done,” and laid out possible strategies, including ones that would shield utility companies from liability. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

• Stanford is investigating Stephen Quake, a professor of biotechnology, over his mentorship of He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist who successfully gene-edited a human baby — work that drew sharp ethical rebuke from the broader scientific community. The case raises questions about how and when others who knew of the experiment should have raised an alarm. [The New York Times]

The formidable legal teams of Apple and Qualcomm, the wireless chip maker, have been at war on three continents. Their next battle over which tech giant deserves the most credit for shaping the evolution of smartphones is set to play out in a San Diego courtroom. [The New York Times]

Have you heard about the dispute between Hollywood writers and agents? Still confused about what’s going on? Here’s what you need to know. [The New York Times]

Image

Stephen Curry during the second half of Game 1 of the Warriors’ series against the Clippers on Saturday.CreditBen Margot/Associated Press

• Stephen Curry scored 38 points and made eight 3-pointers, reaching the highest total in postseason history, against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors are favorites to become N.B.A. champions — again. [The Associated Press]

• The Los Angeles Times relaunched a stand-alone food section. Eat up! [The Los Angeles Times]

It’s pixie season in Ojai. The fussy citrus shows up for only a few weeks a year, and when it does, it’s everywhere: In markets, in cocktails and dipped in chocolate. [Vogue]

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

NYT > U.S.