The Purloined Landscape: Photography and Power in the American West

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In an article published in Tate Papers, University of Westminster Professor of Modern Literature John Beck investigates the New Topographics movement in the Western United States. He discusses military and industrial changes made to the natural environs of the West in the context of post-World War II landscape photography.

The American West can be described as a purloined landscape because much of it has been withdrawn from public access (some might even say stolen), but it has also been left open, apparently untouched and as nature intended. The truth about what goes on in this landscape, like the letter, remains hidden because it is right there, rendered invisible by being thoroughly exposed to the field of vision. — John Beck

From the Tate online posting by John Beck on 3 April 2014.
To learn more about Richard Misrach’s work and publications, please visit his artist page.

Richard Misrach at the David Brower Center

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Richard Misrach’s current exhibition at the David Brower Center, “Petrochemical America,” draws attention to the environmental destruction cased by industrial landscapes. His photographs capture the pollution the petrochemical industry has caused, in an area known as the Chemical Corridor.

I would have expected that environmental regulations or even broader environmental awareness over the decade would have had some impact on the region, but that has not been the case…In recent years, there have been numerous accidents, toxic releases and poor practices, not to mention the devastating Deep Horizon oil spill which occurred just as I was revisiting the area in 2010. — Richard Misrach

From Berkleyside online posting by Tracey Taylor on November 19, 2013.
To learn more about Misrach’s work and publications, please visit his artist page.

Richard Misrach to lecture at San Francisco Art Institute

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Petrochemical America, co-published in 2012 by photographer Richard Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff, focuses on the environmental impacts of petrochemical plants in Louisiana:

Ultimately, this joint enterprise brought forth an exploration and expansion of both disciplines: how can photography and landscape architecture generate change, and how can design choreograph public and private interest to refashion a place? Misrach and Orff started with a discussion of public health and local politics and ended in a dialogue about the future American landscape relative to obsolescence and sprawl. Their collaborative examination of Cancer Alley points to the past and into the future, implicating neighborhoods and corporate states. It also aims to participate in new thinking about how we can best divest ourselves of our addiction to petrochemicals, and to sketch the outlines of a more hopeful future.—Petrochemical America’s “About This Book”

On April 19, 2013, Misrach will be lecturing at the San Francisco Art Institute. For more information please visit the event page.

To learn more about Misrach, please visit his artist page.
To purchase Petrochemical America, please visit the publication page.

Richard Misrach in the Financial Times

Francis Hodgson reviewed Submerged Trailer, Salton Sea, California by Richard Misrach as part of an ongoing series on photography appearing in the Financial Times and Financial Times Weekend:

I know that Richard Misrach takes his place in a long line of predecessors, from Carleton Watkins through Ansel Adams and the New Topographics. I know that both irony and the sublime had been found in the landscape many times before him. I’m British, and know well that tradition of engaged landscape photography represented by Fay Godwin and before her by Bill Brandt. But somehow, for me, it always goes back to Misrach…Nobody else has made such a sustained political enquiry into our maltreatment of the wilderness in a vocabulary of such exquisite beauty.—Francis Hodgson

From the Financial Times online posting by Francis Hodgson on January 15, 2013.
To learn more about Misrach, please visit his artist page.

Kate Orff receives USA Artists Grant

Richard Misrach’s collaborator and coauthor on Petrochemical America, Kate Orff, received the prestigious USA Artist Grant.  She is one of only six architects/designers to do so.

I think a major challenge of making change is being able to visualize issues and to have an informed conversation about these issues. Richard’s photographs are experienced almost intuitively and emotionally. My hope is that by integrating emotion and analysis, photography, research, and speculation, the book can play a role in sparking a deeper discussion about the future of energy and our shared climate and the landscape that we have made.—Kate Orff

From the USA Fellows online posting from 2012.
To learn more about the Petrochemical America collaboration, please visit the publication page.

Richard Misrach’s “Petrochemical America” on Photo-Eye Blog

Melanie McWhorter of Photo-Eye takes a closer look at the collaborative publication by Richard Misrach and Katie Orff, Petrochemical America, and examines the book’s implications both as an artist book as well as an environmental study:

Will such a book have an effect on the way we think and make decisions regarding the petrochemical process and the role individuals play? In the introduction, Orff mentions how the work of Ansel Adams motivated a generation of Sierra Club activists into a movement that culminated in the Wilderness Act, founding new legislation that helped preserve national landscapes. Orff puts Misrach’s images in direct lineage with Adams. Petrochemical America is an important factor in the education of America and if its lessons are applied could be a major factor in making a difference.—Melanie McWhorter

From the Photo-Eye Blog online posting by Melanie McWhorter on November 23, 2012.
To learn more about Misrach’s work and publications, please visit his artist page.

2008 Lucie Awards Honoree, Richard Misrach

This tribute video was produced for 2008 Lucie Awards Honoree Richard Misrach, for Outstanding Achievement in Fine Art Photography.  He reasons that his attention to beauty compels him to methodically photograph a single subject hundreds of times, only to publish about twenty final images.

Certainly I could have taken these photographs with a 35mm in black and white and published them in the newspaper. But those kinds of photographs, when you publish them in that context…you’re so habituated to it that it doesn’t have an impact. It’s sort of just another daily horror.—Richard Misrach

From the 2008 Lucie Foundation online video posting November 21, 2012.
To learn more about Misrach’s work and publications, please visit his artist page.

Oil and Nature: A Landscape Reconfigured

Richard Misrach and Kate Orff’s collaboration “Petrochemical America” showcases the environmental impacts of industry along the Mississippi River Corridor in Louisiana. The New York Times’s Green Blog reviews the show from a more environmental perspective, highlighting the work of Misrach’s collaborator Kate Orff, a landscape architect.

We’re all landscape architects even if it’s by default, because we have made and remade the landscape in the last 100 years, in this era of big oil.”— Kate Orff

From The New York Times’s Green blog posting by Emma Bryce on September 25, 2012.
For more information on Richard Misrach visit his artist page.

Chronologies: An Interview with Richard Misrach, 2006

Aaron Schuman of SeeSaw Magazine interviewed Richard Misrach in 2006 about his publication Chronologies

In spite of the fact that Chronologies can serve as a retrospective of sorts, I really consider it an “artist book”—a concept book rather than a definitive overview. I realized that simply by looking at the progression of my work over an extended period of time (thirty years) new meanings and unexpected relationships were revealed.—Richard Misrach

The full text of the interview can be found on the SeeSaw website.
To learn more about Richard Misrach, please visit his artist page.
Chronologies can be purchased on the Fraenkel Gallery publications page.

 

Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley

Creative Loafing reviewed the recent Richard Misrach exhibition, Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley at The High Museum of Art in Atalanta, Georgia. Misrach’s newest work and the accompanying publication, Petrochemical America were also recently shown in the project room at Aperture’s New York gallery.

The current photography exhibition at the High Museum, “Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley,” is a powerful reminder of the virtue only a photograph can deliver. Misrach’s gigantic photographs of juxtapositions between graveyards, playgrounds, fishermen, and chemical plants in Cancer Alley, an area along the Mississippi river in the deep south where many petrochemical plants are located, are laced with social commentary, irony, satire, realism, and exquisite beauty.—Joeff Davis

From the Creative Loafing online posting by Joeff Davis on October 5, 2012.
To learn more about Richard Misrach’s work and publications please visit his artist page.

Richard Misrach “Destroy This Memory”

In this video, produced by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, photographer Richard Misrach describes photographing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the book it produced, Destroy This Memory. He describes the area as a “post-apocalyptic movie,” completely devoid of people. After taking over 2,000 pictures with a pocket camera, Misrach discovered a theme through many of the images was the graffiti that people had left on the side of homes, buildings, and cars. Some were messages to loved ones, others angry political statements, but many, were clever, humorous quips which Misrach found inspiring as a testament to people’s resilience.

I decided to photograph in New Orleans after Katrina because I had been watching what was going on for about a month like everybody else just as the whole drama was unfolding. When I was there I made about a thousand 8×10 photographs, and along with the big camera, I took a small pocket camera…and that was just strictly to make notes about where I was,  the street signs that were down, maybe places to go back and shoot, I never though I would make serious pictures with that…I photographed the open fire in 1991 and that was a devastated landscape but the scale was radically different. This is the kind of scale where you could drive for days and not see another human being. In front of me, behind me, just destroyed. And no people.

An additional video series of Misrach discussing this work may be found on the Strand Book Store YouTube site.
Destroy This Memory can be purchased on our website.

For more information about Misrach and his work, please visit his artist page.

 

 

The Modern Art Notes Podcast: Richard Misrach

A Modern Art Notes podcast has just been released. It highlights Petrochemical America (Aperture, 2012), the new book born from a collaboration between Richard Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff. The podcast discusses Misrach’s years-long project:

The book examines the industrialized Mississippi River corridor between Baton Rouge, La., and New Oreleans. The region is infamous for its density of petrochemical plants and for high rates of disease, particularly cancer. The book features Misrach’s pictures, commissioned by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and landscape architect Kate Orff’s Ecological Atlas, a series of narratives that establish a relationship between Misrach’s photographs, the region and man-made and ecological forces.

This podcast may be downloaded to a computer or mobile device through the ArtInfo link.
The Modern Arts Notes Podcast can be streamed or subscribed to via iTunes or RSS.

An exhibition of Misrach’s and Orff’s work is on view now in the project room at Aperture’s New York gallery through October 6.
Misrach’s ‘Cancer Alley’ pictures are on view at the High Museum in Atlanta through October 7.

For more information about Misrach and his other projects, please see his artist page.
The book, Petrochemical America, may be purchased through Fraenkel Gallery.

 

Petrochemical America: A Conversation with Richard Misrach and Kate Orff

At some point, somebody turned me on to the River Road in Louisiana, and the industrial corridor that was then called “Cancer Alley.” When I got there, I was just floored by what I saw. I had never come across an American landscape like that. People were living side by side with these great industrial behemoths. I’d always thought of industrial sites as sacrifice zones, in that they would be off in an isolated area, like in Nevada with the nuclear test site in the middle of nowhere. It never occurred to me that people would live within feet of these toxic environments.

Richard Misrach first encountered “Cancer Alley” in 1998 while working on a commission from the High Museum of Art in Atlanta for a series called “Picturing the South.”  In 2009, the High Museum asked Misrach if he’d be interested in exhibiting some of the photos not previously shown. Misrach decided to revisit “Cancer Alley” completely, shoot a new series to see what change, if any, had occurred in the area. Along the way, he teamed with landscape architect Kate Orff to create supplemental, didactic images of the area with the goal of affecting change.

The product of this collaboration is the newly published book Petrochemical America (Aperture, 2012) which may be purchased on the Fraenkel Gallery website.

The full text of the interview with Misrach and Orff is found on the Aperture Foundation website.
For more information on Misrach, please visit his artist page.

 

Petrochemical America: Picturing Cancer Alley

Richard Misrach’s work in Louisiana is featured this week on The New Yorker’s photography blog, “Photo Booth“.

In 1998, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta asked Richard Misrach to produce a body of work for their “Picturing the South” series. Misrach decided to focus on “Cancer Alley,” the Mississippi corridor that stretches a hundred and fifty miles between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, a startling landscape where antebellum mansions and current-day communities line the swamps and levees among gargantuan industrial plants that produce a quarter of America’s petrochemicals.

Posted by Suzanne Shaheen. To read more, visit Photo Booth.
To learn more about Misrach’s work, visit his artist page.

 

Richard Misrach and Kate Orff speak at MoMA

Richard Misrach and Kate Orff will speak about their new collaboration, Petrochemical America, at The Museum of Modern Art, New York City

Thursday, September 20th
6:30 – 8:30 pm
Space is limited and an RSVP is required.
Please email adevents@moma.org for confirmation.

The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Theater 3 (The Celeste Bartos Theater)
Enter at the 4 West 54 Street Cullman Research and Education Center entrance to the Museum

To learn more about Richard Misrach, visit his artist page.

 

Petrochemical America: Richard Misrach and Kate Orff

The Aperture Foundation, celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, hosts a unique collaboration between artist Richard Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff entitled Petrochemical America: Project Room.

Petrochemical America represents a unique collaboration between photographer Richard Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff. It brings into focus the industrialized landscape of the Mississippi River Corridor that stretches from Baton Rouge to New Orleans – a place that first garnered attention as “Cancer Alley” because of unusually high reports of cancer and other diseases in the area.

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Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley

Time Magazine’s online column LightBox has featured work from Richard Misrach’s series Cancer Alley. The exhibition Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley is currently on view at the High Museum, in Atlanta, Georgia from June 2 through Oct. 7, 2012.

The Mississippi is, according to song, a river of black water and mud. But, over a 100-mile stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, something else flows. The nearly 150 petrochemical plants along those banks mean that the region has one of the highest concentrations of industry in the United States. That cluster of facilities, and the resulting pollution and increased cancer rates, have earned the area the nickname “Cancer Alley.”

From the June 1, 2012 Time LightBox feature.

Learn more about Richard Misrach on his artist page.

 

THE 1991 OAKLAND-BERKELEY FIRE REVISITED

One week after a deadly wildfire killed 25 people and destroyed more than 3,000 homes in Oakland and Berkeley, California in 1991, photographer Richard Misrach photographed the aftermath. “There were no police barricades, and people hadn’t really returned,” he says. “It was just completely devastated, very much like a post-apocalyptic movie.”

Read the full feature by Feifei Sun on TIME Light Box here.

A FOCUS ON THE AFTER-STORY

Richard Misrach is nothing if not patient. …

But the most striking evidence of Misrach’s self-discipline must surely be his decision to wait 20 years before revealing the fruits of one of his major photographic projects. It is only now that the photographer is unveiling – in some cases printing for the first time — the photographs he took in the aftermath of the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm.

Read the full story on Richard Misrach on Berkeleyside.

BOOK REVIEW: DESTROY THIS MEMORY

Richard Misrach’s photographs of post-Katrina New Orleans detail the frustrations and resolve of a surviving city.

For blocks and blocks they appeared — grids, circles, numerals: In post-Katrina New Orleans, those symbols became indelible shorthand, modern hieroglyphics set down in fluorescent paint, runny marker, even chalk embroidered on the sides of what was left of the city’s built-architecture — duplexes, shotgun shacks, colonials done in miniature. These markings whispered stories, hash marks that baldly communicated with any passerby the tally of how many bodies remained — humans, pets — and where they might be found inside.

From The Los Angeles Times review on September 5, 2010 of Destroy This Memory by Lynell George.