• About
  • Art
  • Visit
  • Learn
  • Give
  • Shop

Desert X 2023 has closed. This installation is no longer on view.

Matt Johnson

Sleeping Figure

b. New York, USA, 1978
Based in Los Angeles

Sleeping Figure
33.922876, -116.689379
I-10 Exit 110 Haugen-Lehmann Way to Railroad Ave
Whitewater, California, USA
Desert X 2023

Renowned for his wry marriages of everyday subjects with raw physical matter, Matt Johnson’s sculptures explore the paradox of visual forms through unorthodox and surprising materials. Whether rendering concentric Hula Hoops in steel to resemble nuclear diagrams or plastic beer cups in painted bronze, Johnson’s sculptures point not only to the gestural potential of consumer experience, but to the primitive connection humans have to materiality. Recently focusing on wood carvings of crumpled objects of refuse, Johnson’s painstaking renderings of crushed boxes, broken Styrofoam pads and smashed plastic present tossed-off remnants of everyday life as sublime formalism.

Sleeping Figure might be a cubist rendition of a classical odalisque, except here the cubes are shipping containers belonging to the globalized movement of goods and trade. Conceived at the time when a Japanese-owned, Taiwanese-operated, German-managed, Panamanian-flagged and Indian- manned container behemoth found itself for six days under Egyptian jurisdiction while blocking the Suez Canal, Johnson’s figure speaks to the crumples and breaks of a supply chain economy in distress. Situated along the main artery connecting the Port of Los Angeles to the inland United States, the sculpture gains local relevance from the recently approved siting of distribution centers in the north of Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs. Casual and laconic, it overlooks the landscape reminding us that the invisible hand of globalism now connected to its container body has come to rest in the Coachella Valley.