For Misrach, Border Cantos expands on years of prior work, covering the entire length of the Mexican-American border, all 1969 miles, Pacific to Gulf of Mexico. He shows us the existing walls that bisect cabbage fields and communities, slice through individual back yards, extend mile after mile through desert and end in the Pacific Ocean. They are a hodgepodge: squat cement barriers, intimidating-towering steel divides, wire mesh, WW II Normandy-style fencing to prevent vehicles but not people. We also see the ‘digital walls’ (8000 or so cameras, 11,000 underground sensors, etc.) the ones that work.
In this SFMOMA short four artists, including Robert Adams and Richard Misrach, discuss how creating art has helped them cope with disturbing themes such as fear, trauma, and war. The artists address how going to these “dark places” has fostered the discovery of profound beauty and insight.
To want to make pictures is fundamentally to want to share something that you have seen of value, and that you suspect maybe people haven’t paid enough attention to. The American West has been my primary subject, particularly the landscape. They are frightening landscapes and the only way I can get over my own anxiety about them is to go and keep working. – Robert Adams
Richard Misrach, in an interview for American Suburb X, discusses his collaborative project with composer Guillermo Galindo on the Mexican-American Border crossing. Misrach takes abandoned objects he finds at the border, photographs them, and sends them to Galindo, who then transforms them into musical instruments.
This whole border project really is an extension of my Desert Cantos,…you look at landscape, but it’s not really landscape, it’s a symbol for our country, it’s a metaphor for our country. –Richard Misrach
From an interview by Brad Feuerhelm at Paris Photo Fair from November 2014.
To learn more about Misrach’s work, please visit his artist page.
Coinciding with Richard Misrach’s current exhibition Being(s) 1975-2015 is the release of his book The Mysterious Opacity of Other Beings, published by Aperture. This is Misrach’s first book to focus exclusively on the human figure adrift in shifting waters. On May 9 at 2pm, Misrach will join us at the gallery to sign copies of his newest monograph.
Jonathan Blaustein reviews Assigment No. 2, a publication by TBW Books that explores incarceration through a copy of a handwritten essay written by an inmate, Mr. Nelson, from San Quentin Prison. The essay compares and contrasts a Sugimoto and Misrach photograph as part of an art assignment written while in solitary confinement in 2011.
The essay is smart, but takes a turn towards poignant when Mr. Nelson alludes to his own situation in life. The metaphor of a world changing beyond recognition, seen in the pictures, also seems well-chosen, for someone living on the inside. –Jonathan Blaustein
From aPhotoeditor online posting by Jonathan Blaustein on 13 February 2015.
To learn more about Sugimoto’s work, please visit his artist page.
To learn more about Misrach’s work, please visit his artist page.
Richard Misrach sat down with Eleanor Morgan of Vice Magazine to discuss his recent work on the US/Mexico border and his collaboration with composer Guillermo Galindo. He talks about his interest in photographing desert landscapes and the impact of finding “human trash”—personal artifacts—along the border.
I’ve always thought of them as a giant stage—everything from bomb ranges to nuclear testing happens in our American deserts. –Richard Misrach
Artist Richard Misrach and composer Guillermo Galindo collaborated to produce a body of work commenting on the United States and Mexico border. Misrach roamed the vast expanse of the border for five years. By documenting the desolate landscapes through photography and collecting found objects along the way, the collaborative work offers an intimate view into the tragic state of the border.
These things end up being loaded symbols, things that tell us where the country is headed. –Richard Misrach
Over five years, Misrach traveled across the border documenting the despondent landscapes while gathering abandoned objects. Accompanying Misrach in the interview is composer Guillermo Galindo. Misrach asked Galindo to make instruments out of the objects he had found at the border. The subsequent instruments sound like the desolate landscapes captured in Misrach’s images.
It could be backpacks, and water bottles, tennis shoes, things like that. Each one of those objects has this incredible story, and it’s a tragedy. Every single one of them is a tragedy. –Richard Misrach
Richard Misrach’s new work on the border between the United States and Mexico is the cover story for the second edition of The California Sunday Magazine. Misrach’s work, which also includes collaboration with sound artist Guillermo Galindo, documents the tragic narrative between a collision of culture and politics present along the 1,969 mile border.
All the photographs are about found objects — shotgun shells from a Border Patrol shooting range, a soccer ball, a boot, a Spanish translation of Doctor Zhivago — that are banal but laden with meaning. I’m always on the lookout for the anomalous. –Richard Misrach
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
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
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”
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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. –Richard Misrach
To learn more about Misrach’s work, please visit his artist page.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.