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(1) "Winter of My Discontent", found objects, 24 x 16 x 6", 1993
(2) "The Fire Next Time" (After James Baldwin), 26 x 16 x 7", 1995


by Judith Hoffberg

(Rachele Lozzi Gallery, Downtown) Noah Purifoy now resides in Joshua Tree, where he has created an amazing environment of sculptures, assemblages and collages on the desert floor. Among more than 100 works is a large shrine-like structure some call the Cathedral; a cemetary; the Kirby Express, a whimsical train on tracks made from building materials of shiny metal as well as the vestiges of Kirby vacuum cleaners.

In his solitude, this 77-year-old visionary is not one to yield to the desert. He has so many ideas and so many objects to make for the desert's delight. The death a few years ago of his "best friend and drinking buddy" provoked Purifoy to quit drinking and smoking cold turkey, and to work and keep busy to "forget about it. Forgetting is also a way of redirecting the thought process to a place where one is forced to think about that which one is attempting to forget." An indirect result of this is a graveyard with small shadowbox-like sculptures, the Desert Tombstones.

The selection of these currently on exhibit encourage humor and compassion as the tonic for our fears. Each tombstone has its own story. They invoke memory, as in The First Next Time after James Baldwin; icons of mythology, such as Centaur; nature's gifts, as in Honeycomb; or A Book Flown, a silver-toned book with a heavily locked clasp derived from a poem the artist wrote 30 years ago during his sojourn in Watts.

The fifteen Desert Tombstones, the only in this series Purifoy intends to make, evoke a quiet eloquence and timeless beauty. They are flecked with sparks of blue and silver, like sentinels in the desert (or gallery) night. They suggest that the mystery of life is reflected in and bound up with the mystery of death. Purifoy's stay in the desert allows him to create markers for you to ask more of living so that death is no stranger.

Large mixed media assemblage sculptures made from wood, detritus and found materials are also on view.