8 art installations worth a day trip from Los Angeles

Bruce Munro, Field of Light at Sensorio.Copyright © 2021 Bruce Munro. All rights reserved. Photography by Serena MunroBruce Munro, Field of Light at Sensorio.

8 art installations worth a day trip from Los Angeles

Head down the freeway to scope out these unique art installations within a few hours of L.A.

Michael JulianoWritten by Michael JulianoContributor Stephanie MorinoThursday May 11 2023FacebookTwitterPinterestEmailWhatsAppAdvertising

We’re still always finding new discoveries within Los Angeles County’s collection of top-notch museums and art galleries. But take a cultural day trip down the freeway and you’ll find a side of the art world truly unlike anything closer to home. Gallery walls give way to massive open-air installations and dadaist assemblies of outsider art. So we’ve selected some of our art installations near L.A. (particularly toward Palm Springs and Joshua Tree) that are worth a day trip.

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8 art installations worth a day trip, from closest to farthest from L.A.

Dividing the Light (Claremont)Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/jojomelons

Dividing the Light (Claremont)

A quick drive down the freeway for SGV residents but basically a day trip for anyone farther west, this outdoor James Turrell piece is worth a visit regardless of your starting location. Though not as enveloping as Turrell’s colorful Ganzfeld series, this Skyspace installation invites you to take a seat on a bench and gaze at the sky through a sharply-cut square in a canopy. Show up about 25 minutes before sunset and 100 minutes before sunrise to see the frame pulsate through an illuminated program, with brief chimes of light on the hour in between.

600 N College Ave, Claremont. Open daily.

Read moreElmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch (Oro Grande)Photograph: Shutterstock

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch (Oro Grande)

The late Elmer Long inherited a collection of colorful glass bottles in 2000. So what else was he supposed to do with them than create a forest of bottle trees, naturally? By the time he passed away in 2019, Long’s continued recycling had pushed the installation past 200 bottle trees.

24266 National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande. Visible from the side of the road even when the gate is closed.

Read moreAdvertisingWorld Famous Crochet Museum (Joshua Tree)Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Los Paseos

World Famous Crochet Museum (Joshua Tree)

Look for the “art queen” sign on the edge of town in Joshua Tree, and let yourself in through the gate. In the back of a dusty courtyard, you’ll find this lime-green former Fotomat booth, which is no wider than a closet and is filled from floor to ceiling with Shari Elf’s collection of crocheted creations.

61855 Hwy 62, Joshua Tree. Open daily 10am–6pm.

Read moreNoah Purifoy’s Outdoor Museum (Joshua Tree)Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Harmony Gerber

Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Museum (Joshua Tree)

Not too long after cofounding the Watts Towers Art Center, L.A. artist Noah Purifoy moved to the Mojave and began work on this outdoor, salvage-yard-esque installation, a project that he built over the final 15 years of his life. The 10-acre site’s cast-offs range from creepy rubble piles to political statements to home-like structures.

63030 Blair Ln, Joshua Tree. Open daily sunrise to sunset.

Read moreAdvertisingEtherea (Coachella)Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Rob Corder

Etherea (Coachella)

Part of a trio of temple-like structures at the 2018 edition of Coachella, Edoardo Tresoldi’s sculpture has since found a permanent home in the city of Coachella. It doesn’t look quite as carefree and weightless as it did on the polo field, but walking inside the 54-foot-tall Etherea still feels like a beautiful bit of haze.

Cesar Chavez St and 6th St, Coachella. Open daily.

Salvation Mountain (Niland)Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Peter Woodman

Salvation Mountain (Niland)

A mixture of adobe clay, straw and paint, Leonard Knight’s “mountain” is covered with a collage of colorful murals, including a large “God is Love” wedged between a cross and a heart. Aside from the religious tones, the 50-foot-tall, 150-foot-wide mural on the southeast side of the Salton Sea also includes paintings of flowers, trees, waterfalls and birds.

Beal Rd, near Niland. Open daily sunrise to sunset.

Read moreAdvertisingEast Jesus (Niland)Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Kevin Dooley

East Jesus (Niland)

If you go to Salvation Mountain, this Slab City artist refuge is located less than a mile away. There, an art garden features a variety of bric-a-brac sculptures created mostly of trash and junkyard objects. Each piece has been crafted by a different artist and can rotate out for new installations.

23 Sidewinder Rd, Niland. Open daily sunrise to sunset.

Read moreSensorio (Paso Robles)Copyright © 2021 Bruce Munro. All rights reserved. Photography by Serena Munro

Sensorio (Paso Robles)

The three-hour-plus evening drive back may stretch the boundaries of a single-day trip, but a boring drive up and down the 5 is a small price to pay for this illuminated hillside walkthrough from artist Bruce Munro. The ticketed installation includes the 15-acre Field of Light, a flowery blanket of 58,800 fiber-optic spheres; Light Towers, 69 towers of glowing wine bottles; Gone Fishing, 30 circular cluster of 25 colorful fishing rods; and Fireflues, a pathway with 9,720 flickering lights. 

4380 Hwy 46 E, Paso Robles. Thu–Sun evenings; $43.

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