There Was Once a Secret Pool in the Mojave Desert

For a few years, there was an oasis in the Mojave Desert. It wasn't a natural wellspring, nor the fever dream of a weary traveler. It was an 11-foot-by-5-foot pool platform with clean, cool water that was open and available for use with one minor caveat: you had to find it first.

Social Pool was an art installation created by Austrian-born artist Alfredo Barsuglia. It was created in 2014 and existed as a self and audience-maintained work. To access the pool, interested parties first had to go to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in West Hollywood (Barsuglia was in residence there in 2006) to retrieve one of four keys that permitted access to the pool. The staff also provided GPS coordinates and a few guidelines, according to LAist. Among them: don’t copy the key, bring it back within 24 hours, and replenish the pool with a gallon of fresh water.

Juliet Bennett Rylah of LAist didn’t reveal the exact location of Social Pool but wrote in her account that it was about two and a half hours from LA, and the journey included some unpaved roads and a bit of hiking. A solar-powered filter, a chlorination system, and handy skimmer kept the water cool and clean.

A pool-seeker couldn't call the center ahead of time to make sure a key was available, nor were they available to put on reserve, which was part of the point.

“I don't want people to go there and combine it with other things," Barsuglia told the Los Angeles Times. "The idea is that it all starts the moment you pick up the key. You then have the experience of getting there: of maybe sitting in traffic, of the walk in the desert, of enjoying the pool if you find it, then returning the key to the MAK Center. That is all part of the project."

The artist also told the paper that the piece was “about the effort people make to reach a luxury good," but Social Pool arguably also said something about the people who sought it out. It was enjoyed and preserved while it was up, but Barsuglia told LAist that even if it wasn’t, that would've been OK:

“I don't think that someone takes the effort to visit the pool to destroy it. Yes, I trust the participants, but as I mentioned before, if someone comes to destroy the work, it's sad but part of the project—of letting the project develop by itself, without my or anybody's influence. To sit in the pool and watch the scenery is outstanding. I think it's so nice that nobody would conceive the idea to damage it, but to prevent it for the next visitor. But you never know… we will see."

Between Social Pool, the Mojave Phone Booth, and the desert’s airplane graveyard, musical sand dunes, and abandoned mines, it seems like a wonderland of curiosities.

Note: Social Pool was closed to the public on September 30, 2014. This article has been edited to reflect the closure. 

Banner image via Vimeo.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Ape Meets Girl
Pop Culture
Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.


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