Richard Misrach: The Sky Book

Richard Misrach has redefined contemporary landscape photography with his images of the splendor and destruction of the American West. Each of his “cantos” considers another chapter in the epic story of humankind and the land. Far from portraying the pristine landscapes of early practitioners such as Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, or Ansel Adams, Misrach’s compelling and often troubling images of the American West pose important questions about the human impact on the natural world. Beneath the remarkable beauty of Misrach’s color photographs are scenes of floods, fires, nuclear testing grounds, dead animals, and the debris of society. The photographs in The Sky Book comprise Richard Misrach’s most recent, most ambitious series, which transposes his narrative from the land to the sky. The images mediate between document and abstraction, reality and metaphor. Drawing on photography’s documentary tradition, Misrach contextualizes each photograph with respect to time and place, rooting the celestial realm firmly in the earthly and political one. In this way, his images are reminiscent of the efforts of nineteenth-century expeditionary photographers to record the natural resources of the frontier. At the same time, Misrach’s sky pictures also evoke a tradition of abstraction in art and photography that includes Alfred Steiglitz’s Equivalents and the paintings of Mark Rothko.—the publisher