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How the Bombay Beach Biennale Brought Art to a Toxic Wasteland

James Ostrer (seated) with Joseph Walsh of the San Francisco Ballet at Bombay Beach Biennale 2017. (Photo courtesy of Bombay Beach Biennale)

Just a few hours south of Los Angeles there’s a tiny desert town called Bombay Beach– though its geographically close at hand to many millions of people, it might as well be another world.

One of several beachside settlements on the shores of the Salton Sea, the town was once a booming resort spot popular during the prosperous post-War years when more than a million vacationers traveled there annually. But the sea– actually a sprawling, shallow lake– and the dusty desert expanse around it, have since lost their appeal, slipped out of range, and essentially vanished from the minds of many Southern California residents. “I’d never heard of it,” filmmaker and LA native Tao Ruspoli explained in a recent interview.

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Slideshow/Book Launch with Christopher Merrit and Domenic Priore

Join authors Merritt and Priore for a discussion of their new book.Pacific Ocean Park: The Rise and Fall of Los Angeles’ Space-Age Nautical Pleasure Pier collates photographs of Pacific Ocean Park, a family-oriented attraction that was a staple of Los Angeles life from the 50s through the 70s. P.O.P.’s attendance, it should be noted, briefly surpassed that of Disney World’s. The surreal photographs offer a vivid trip into leisure parks past. The authors will show a slideshow and sign books.