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Junkyard Genius

The gloriously “trashy” assemblages of Noah Purifoy go on display in Los Angeles

Author Chris Wright Photography Bill Ray/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images


Applying the word “trash” to art doesn’t always mean it’s bad. At least not in the case of Noah Purifoy, who died in 2004 at the age of 86 after making a name for himself as a junkyard art genius. The California sculptor got his start in the aftermath of the 1965 Watts riots, when he ventured out into the still-smoldering streets to salvage debris that he went on to use for his first trash sculpture. Purifoy’s most fertile period was his final 15 years, when he isolated himself in the Mojave Desert and produced scores of haunting, humorous and often huge works made entirely out of discarded tires, TV sets, toilets and anything else he could get his hands on. This month, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opens “Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada,” an exhibition showcasing his assemblages, including “65 Aluminum Trays,” a sloping structure made of, yes, 65 aluminum trays. (June 7)

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