Minutemen, Dry Lake Bed near Lucerne Valley, California, April 24, 1983 (photo by Scot Allen at Mojave Exodus, courtesy Cornelius Projects)

Between the utopian music festivals of the late 1960s and the corporate behemoths they’ve become, a series of site-specific concerts in Southern California once offered an alternative, wildly independent vision of what these types of events could be. Spanning only a few years in the mid-80s, the Desolation Center happenings were punk concerts that took place in unorthodox locations, such as the Mojave Desert northeast of Los Angeles, or aboard a chartered whale-watching ship. Despite the challenging nature of their settings, these events featured some of the most influential punk and post-punk bands of the era: Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Einstürzende Neubauten, Saccharine Trust, Savage Republic, and others. A number of notable visual artists were also involved, such as Raymond Pettibon, Anthony Ausgang, and Rick Potts, a founding member of experimental collective, the Los Angeles Free Music Society.

From the Desert to the Sea: The Desolation Center Experience aims to re-examine the significance of this phenomenon through period photography and video, as well as paintings and sculptures by related artists and musicians including Mike Watt of Minutemen, Cris Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, Kristine Kryttre, John Tottenham, Bruce Licher, and others. Co-curated by Desolation Center founder Stuart Swezey, with Laurie Steelink, Craig Ibarra, and Mariska Leyssius, the exhibition should illuminate this overlooked but fertile period in LA’s musical and artistic history.

Anthony Ausgang, “Untitled” (1984), displayed on board the MV Cormorant at the Joy at Sea show cruising San Pedro & Long Beach Harbors, June 15, 1984. (photo by Anthony Ausgang, courtesy Cornelius Projects)

When: Opens Saturday, June 17, 6–9pm
Where: Cornelius Projects (1417 South Pacific Avenue, San Pedro, California)

More info here.

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.