Palm Springs Art Museum continues 'Outburst Project' with 5 residency artists

·7 min read
Artist Gabriela Ruiz poses in the framework of her installation at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs, Calif., on July 21, 2022.
Artist Gabriela Ruiz poses in the framework of her installation at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs, Calif., on July 21, 2022.

During a recent visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum, Los Angeles artist Gabriela Ruiz was standing in the framework of a fun house she's creating for the latest "Outburst Project" exhibition.

It was an empty shell, but as she pointed to areas that would feature plexiglass, sculptures, three-dimensional objects, sound, video clips and more, the idea began to take shape. The immersive installation is an examination of the inner workings of her brain and thought process.

"We live in a state where everything is so up in the air," Ruiz said. You can wake up and you're anxious about the day and thinking 'How do I get to work?' We go to work, we have to do this or that and it's like being on autopilot a lot of the time."

The exhibition opened Aug. 6 and is the second iteration of the museum's artists-in-residency program. Among those featured are Los Angeles artists Ruiz, Maria Maea, Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya, and local artists Karla Ekatherine Canseco and Clara Nieblas.

Ruiz, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, often attended carnivals featuring fun houses. She's had a fascination — and anxiety — with them since childhood because they're enticing to enter and difficult to exit, and it's that sense of unease that comes to life through her piece.

"You'd walk into these mirrors, there's sounds from the carnival outside, and you'd vaguely see your parents through the glass trying to say 'Go that way!'" Ruiz said. "In this one, you'll walk into the space and be bombarded with sound, lighting and visuals. You'll kind of want to stay in there longer when you'd normally try to get out."

Los Angeles artist Maria Maea works on her installation for the Outburst Projects exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs, Calif., on July 21, 2022.
Los Angeles artist Maria Maea works on her installation for the Outburst Projects exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs, Calif., on July 21, 2022.

When asked what makes her prone to anxiety, Ruiz described the challenges of her childhood — especially regarding school performance and watching her parents look for employment to make ends meet.

"Being a first generation child of immigrants, you have to surpass what your parents are doing because they sacrificed their entire life to be here," Ruiz said. "There are so many things happening. Having undocumented parents is like, 'What's going to happen to them?' Then 'Can I actually make a living from making art?' It's so much pressure and the list can go on."

Working with the local environment

Down the hall, Maria Maea was constructing an archway made of palm tree fronds with several piled around the floor of another gallery space. She describes her work as figurative and uses ephemeral plant material as a medium, especially in museum or gallery spaces.

"We're fabricators, we're makers and we do this in a lot of different capacities, but not like this. To really be in communication with the environment is great," Maea said.

Maea has been an artist-in-residence in Los Angeles at Coaxial Arts Foundation and Showbox LA. She's also worked as a prop master, weaver and production designer.

The environment has been a challenge for Maea, who is used to working with fronds in Los Angeles where the sun doesn't dry them out so quickly. As she stood on a scissor lift molding fronds into the archway, many dead leaves, seeds and other pieces were falling on her onto the floor.

"It's been fun in the residency aspect of learning to work with this material in a different climate," Maea said. "In Los Angeles, it's abundant and the weather is easy, but then it's like 'What if I went to Florida?' or these other places and what does environment do to the material?"

One benefit to Maea's artwork is local cities and landscapers are trimming palm trees, which has made her appreciative of those doing that work during the summer in the desert.

"Think about what they're doing," Maea said "They're actually going and cutting (palm trees) in harsh conditions, and they're still willing to do that labor."

Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya works on his sculpture for the upcoming "Outbursts Projects" exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs, Calif., on July 21, 2022.
Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya works on his sculpture for the upcoming "Outbursts Projects" exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs, Calif., on July 21, 2022.

Creating a 'wordless monster'

In workplace down in the basement, sculpturist Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya was working in front of what he described as a "wordless monster" hanging a rack with teeth popping out in various places. Piles of scrap metal removed from cars and other objects found in the desert were piled on a work table next to him. A drying rack of fabric dipped into silicone on the opposite side.

Montoya's works, which have been referred to by Artnet as "a characteristic of queer assemblage" have been presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson, Arizona and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The sculpture he's creating for "Outburst Projects" is a combination of "queerness creating bodies within its own body" and his interest in the fashion world. The fabrics, which are pieces of Montoya's own clothing, are draped in silicone and resemble white leather or vinyl as they're molded on to the welded metal parts.

"This work is specifically thinking about putting words into a feeling. When you don't have a word for how you like something," Montoya said. "I was really into fashion when I was in high school. I was looking at early Balenciaga before what it is today and was really interested in Alexander McQueen. I didn't know what they were doing, but could feel that I really enjoyed their aesthetic."

The labels of fashion designers such as Gucci, Versace and Ralph Lauren have gone on in history to influence culture, while some, such as Pierre Cardin and Halston, fizzled out. Montoya feels like the hustle and bustle of the fashion industry — and subsequently its designers — could also be viewed as a monster.

"(The designers') aesthetics get replicated or mass produced," Montoya said. "(The installation) is about fashion, but in a subverted way. You want to put on the clothing but it's almost like putting on the skin of something else."

Palm Springs Art Museum Executive Director and CEO Adam Lerner, left, and Annenberg Theater Committee co-chair David Zippel converse about plans for the future of the Palm Springs Art Museum inside the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs, Calif., on December 6, 2021.
Palm Springs Art Museum Executive Director and CEO Adam Lerner, left, and Annenberg Theater Committee co-chair David Zippel converse about plans for the future of the Palm Springs Art Museum inside the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs, Calif., on December 6, 2021.

'Having that spectrum is important'

The first iteration of the "Outbursts Project" opened in April and featured artists Fulton Leroy Washington, aka Mr. Wash, and Devin Reynolds.

Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Adam Lerner said the museum plans to present two more "Outburst Projects" exhibitions and continue the program in the future. It's important, he said, to showcase a mix of traditional and modern art because local audiences should know what is happening in the art world now.

"Having that spectrum is important," Lerner said. "These young artists (in the current iteration) represent what the next generation of artists are doing. It's important to me they are presenting their work in a gallery adjacent to Leon Polk Smith (exhibition), who died in the ’90s and was a leading figure of modern art in the 20th-century abstraction."

The artists are also going through the museum's permanent collection to choose pieces to include within their installation space. Montoya has found inspiration from the Mesoamerican sculptures and Louise Bourgeois' 1996 sculpture "Spider," and said it speaks to the "lineage and heritage" of the Palm Springs Art Museum.

"Louise Bourgeois' spiders and monsters are aligning with my work and thinking in terms of monstrosity or aligning history within its layers so we understand our position within the museum structure," Montoya said.

The opportunity to show her work in a museum setting is "exciting" for Ruiz, who has done solo exhibitions at the Vincent Price Art Museum and the Tokyo Art Complex in Los Angeles.

"I feel like it's a new challenge," Ruiz said. "When I was approaching this, I was like 'Wow, this is going to be huge.' I'm so ready for this and to be able to have a space and an institution back this up too."

If you go

Correction: A previous version of this story mispelled Gabriela Ruiz's first name and gave the incorrect name of the overall museum project.  

Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment for the Desert Sun. He can be reached at brian.blueskye@desertsun.com or on Twitter at @bblueskye.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Palm Springs Art Museum's 'Outburst Project' to feature 5 new artists