Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella

In Case You Forgot, Coachella is Also an Art Festival

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Every year, the expansive desert landscape serves as a playground for artists.

Whether or not you made the pilgrimage to Coachella for its 20th anniversary, you have likely been swiping through desert-dusted highlights on Instagram and catching live performances on YouTube. Coming up, Kayne West announced he will perform an Easter morning “Sunday Service” on the “Mountain,” a hillside area within the festival grounds. If you’re a Weekend Two ticket holder — myself included — you will be able to attend the sermon on the mount. If you’re not, it will likely be on a screen near you.

Ariana Grande brought her NSYNC idols onstage and sparked nostalgia the first weekend. Donald Glover concluded his “Childish Gambino” tour after making waves with his “This is America” hit. And the breakout stars of BLACKPINK, the first all-female K-pop group to perform at Coachella, set Twitter ablaze.

But let’s not forget about the visuals at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Every year, art installations take over the Indio, California festival grounds.

While you may presently be living in a state of FOMO, we’re here to take you on a tour of some of the art installations that represent two decades of community, music and art.

Get the story behind Poetic Kinetic’s giant crowd-roaming astronaut (now a Coachella regular) and Office Kovacs’ astonishing prickle-free cacti garden, and take a seat in the funhouse-style chairs by L.A. pop art queen Peggy Noland.

Installation view of “MISMO” by Sofia Enriquez at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2019. Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella.

SOFIA ENRIQUEZ — “MISMO”

Sofia Enriquez is a local Coachella Valley visual artist. She infused her love of graphic patterns with the eye-catching shapes found in her clothing line, Mucho, and turned it into a series of large-scale paisley sculptures. Enriquez employs a paisley motif, which she believes transcends gender, age and social status as a universal symbol of equality. Upon closer inspection, one can discern several faces rendered in multiple colors within the paisley frame.

Crafted from wood and meticulously coated in vibrant colors, “MISMO” creates new flora in the muted Indio landscape. When juxtaposed with the clear sky and symmetrical palm trees, the sculptures which range in scale from 14-18 feet present an optical wonderland.

Installation view of “Sarbalé ke” by Francis Kéré at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2019. Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella.

FRANCIS KÉRÉ — “Sarbalé ke”

“Sarbalé ke,” which translates to “the house of celebration,” takes its name from the artist’s native West African village of Gando in Burkina Faso. Francis Kéré, a Berlin-based architect, presents 12 towers carefully constructed with geometric rigor in a sequence of interlocking triangles that reach to more than 60 feet tall. The hues of color resemble the natural gradation of earth, fire, wind and sky. The structures invite the viewer to stand inside and gaze up at the mesmerizing cylindrical beauty and find a moment of quiet and solace among the pulsating festival beats.

Installation view of “Overview Effect” by Poetic Kinetics at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2019. Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella.

POETIC KINETICS — “Overview Effect”

Poetic Kinetics return to Coachella to launch their seventh installation — a massive roaming astronaut. Founded by Patrick Shearn, the Los Angeles-based design studio awes festival-goers with its experiential and interactive sculptures that are also meant to raise awareness about sustainability.

The astronaut first made its appearance in 2014 and has now become a festival regular as he roams the Coachella crowds. Its name, “Overview Effect,” refers to the cognitive shift in perspective, identity and awareness that occurs when astronauts view Earth from light years away.

Installation view of “Colossal Cacti” by Office Kovacs at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2019. Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella.

OFFICE KOVACS — “Colossal Cacti”

Design studio Office Kovacs offers a new twist on the prickly desert totems. “Colossal Cacti” is a cactus garden of seven boldly painted sculptures that offer shade from the unforgiving desert heat and a humbling reminder of the overwhelming presence and power of nature. The four largest cacti range from 36-52 feet tall, while the “smaller” ones are less than 24 feet in height.

Office Kovacs is led by Los Angeles-based Andrew Kovacs, a professor at UCLA in the architecture and urban design department. Working in collaboration with architectural designer Erin Wright, their cacti garden is not only a visual behemoth during the day, but thanks to the road reflectors adhered along their spines, they are a guiding light at night.

Installation view of “Spectra” by NEWSUBSTANCE at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2019. Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella.

NEWSUBSTANCE — “Spectra”

Crafted by the U.K.’s NEWSUBSTANCE, the stunning art installation “Spectra” is back this year at Coachella. An immersive seven-story winding structure invites attendees to view the desert through Perspex window panels that cover the space in intense colors during the day and emit LED refraction in the evening. If you couldn’t secure tickets the past couple years and missed out on this trippy piece, the installation will be a permanent fixture on the Coachella site next year too.

Installation view of “Foiled Plan” by Peggy Noland at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2019. Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella.

PEGGY NOLAND — “FOILED PLAN”

A veteran of the Coachella art program, L.A.’s Peggy Noland transforms the Sonora Stage into a multimedia experience beaming with technicolor. The installation is adorned with multicolored reflective surfaces and funhouse-style furniture so plush it beckons festival-goers to take a seat and absorb the sonic landscape. The artist works both in Kansas City and Los Angeles and creates scenes found in retail environments, and utilizes brilliantly colored foil to reflect the contemporary zeitgeist back to the viewer.

Los Angeleno