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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 Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
Contributor
Stephanie Morino
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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.

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

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 Sat–Mon during the school year, daily during the summer.

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

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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.

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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

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 (its current iteration has evening reservations through January 2022) includes the 15-acre Field of Light, a flowery blanket of 58,800 fiber-optic spheres, and Light Towers, 69 towers of glowing wine bottles.

4380 Hwy 46 E, Paso Robles. Thu–Sun evenings; $40.

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