Lita Albuquerque - Los Angeles Times

Desert X marks its spot for Coachella 2017 art exhibition

Deborah Vankin

Lita Albuquerque would like to map the sky. She'd like to stitch together the stars and the sand, sending a blanket of fluid, brightly colored dancers across the open, dusty desert floor.

The environmental artist's vision for a performance involving hundreds of people, along with a companion sculptural installation, may materialize next spring as part of Desert X, a new international biennial. It will run February to April 2017 in the Palm Springs area and will culminate while next year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is underway.

Desert X, short for Desert Exhibition of Art, will be a free, site-specific contemporary art exhibition steered by a nonprofit group that includes artist Ed Ruscha, collector Beth Rudin DeWoody and former Palm Springs Art Museum Director Steven A. Nash. Organizers are early in the conception process and won't confirm artist names, but they say the list of participants likely will include Albuquerque, whose desert-inspired artworks date to the '70s.

Eight other artists, including L.A.-based Glenn Kaino and Doug Aitken and Palm Desert-based Phillip K. Smith, have been in "deep conversations" with organizers. Many of these artists are making site visits with exhibition curator Neville Wakefield to get inspiration and to plan possible works, which will be funded by the biennial.

The vision is to have internationally known artists respond to the locale — whether that be the topography, the history, the socioeconomic climate of the area or the mythology of the desert. Organizers hope the event will elevate the profile of contemporary art in the desert as well as offer a big, blank canvas to creators.