Though born in Snow Hill, Alabama in 1917, Noah Purifoy lived most of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California, where he died in 2004. The exhibition of his work, Junk Dada, at LACMA in 2015 as well as the recent publication by Steidl of his notebooks and essays in High Desert, have contributed to the legacy of this long-overlooked artist who first came to prominence with sculpture assembled from the debris of the Watts Rebellion of 1965.
In the last fifteen years of his life Purifoy lived in the Mojave Desert where he created large-scale sculptures spread over ten acres. On visiting this site Hannah Collins made a series of exquisite black-andwhite photographic studies of Purifoy’s work. Her rigorous aesthetic stance is unwittingly reminiscent of the formality of Walker Evans, who would have greatly appreciated Purifoy’s transformation of discarded materials into grand yet vernacular forms.
Message from the Interior, Walker Evans’ photographic study of 1966, which through the selection of a handful of pictures of interiors suggests a wide and disparate landscape, became a model for the publication of Collins’ work from Purifoy’s site. Her 18 photographs are presented here in a format that exactly echoes Evans’ publication, both typographically and spatially. The intention is not imitative, but refers to the grandeur and scale achieved by Purifoy. Cumulatively his work becomes a transitory monument inevitably destined to decay into the desert itself.