|Richard Misrach is one of the most influential photographers of his generation. His talent first came to public attention through the photographs he made in the American desert and Stonehenge during the years 1975-1977. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, among other institutions, acquired work from this series, and the photographs were exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1979. Working at night, with long exposure times and a strobe technique, Misrach created stark images of cacti, trees, rocks, and the desert floor, apparently infused with an un-earthly light. His unique split-toned printing process heightened the black and white tones of the subject while infusing a copper-ish glow to the background. In 1978 the Agfa Company reduced the silver content in its photographic papers, and Misrach was no longer able to print the work as intended. Consequently, these prints are scarce and have rarely been shown together since the late 1970s. Richard Misrachâ€™s early photographs confidently declared his themes and paved the way for much of what was to come in his celebrated Desert Cantos, a work still in progress.
In the 1970s, he helped pioneer the renaissance of color photography and large-scale presentation that are in widespread practice today. Best known for his ongoing series, Desert Cantos, a multi-faceted approach to the study of place and manâ€™s complex relationship to it, he has worked in the landscape for over 40 years. The recent chapter of the series, Border Cantos, made in collaboration with the experimental composer Guillermo Galindo, explores the unseen realities of the US-Mexico borderlands. This work will be exhibited at the Amon Carter Museum of Art in late 2016. Other notable bodies of work include his documentation of the industrial corridor along the Mississippi River known as â€śCancer Alleyâ€ť, the study of weather, time, color and light in his serial photographs of the Golden Gate bridge, and On The Beach, an aerial perspective of human interaction and isolation.
Recent projects mark departures from his work to date. In one series, he has experimented with new advances in digital capture and printing, foregrounding the negative as an end in itself and digitally creating images with astonishing detail and color spectrum. In another, he built a powerful narrative out of images of graffiti produced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, made with a 4-megapixel pocket camera. In fall 2012, in collaboration with landscape architect Kate Orff, Misrach launched a major book and exhibition entitled Petrochemical America, which addresses the health and environmental issues associated with our dependency on oil.
Misrach has had one-person exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, among others. A mid-career traveling survey was organized by the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in 1996. His photographs are held in the collections of most major institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In fall 2010, on the five-year anniversary of Katrina, the exhibition Untitled [New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, 2005] made its debut at the New Orleans Museum of Art and was also shown at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The series, 1991â€”The Oakland-Berkeley Fire Aftermath, was presented in the fall of 2011 at the Berkeley Art Museum and the Oakland Museum of California, concurrently. The body of work, Revisiting the South: Richard Misrachâ€™s Cancer Alley, was inaugurated at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, in summer 2012 and traveled to the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in 2013.
Over a dozen monographs have been published on Misrachâ€™s work, among them Telegraph 3 A.M.: The Street People of Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley; Richard Misrach:1975-1987; Bravo 20: The Bombing of the American West; Crimes and Splendors: The Desert Cantos of Richard Misrach; Violent Legacies: Three Cantos; The Sky Book; Richard Misrach: Golden Gate; Pictures of Paintings; Chronologies; On the Beach; Destroy this Memory; 1991 â€”The Oakland/Berkeley Fire Aftermath; Petrochemical America; and 11.21.11 5:40pm. He is the recipient of numerous awards in the arts including four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2002 he was given the Kulturpreis for Lifetime Achievement in Photography by the German Society for Photography, and in 2008 the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fine Art Photography.
Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery