For most of his career, Richard Misrach has been interested in showing man’s impact on the landscape of the American west. Typically his work starts with overpowering beauty, forces us to wonder, ‘What happened there?’ and can often lead to the viewer realizing that the beautiful thing is (or was) also destructive and damaging to the environment. Such as this case here, in Desert Fire #249 (1985, detail), in which an alfalfa field was intentionally set aflame, unleashing an enormous amount of air pollution on the surrounding desert.
This week’s MAN Podcast spotlights “Petrochemical America,” a new book byMisrach and landscape architect Kate Orff. 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.
“Petrochemical America” 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 through October 7. (The book is also published by Aperture. Amazon lists it at $30 off.) This piece is part of Misrach’s ‘Desert Cantos’ series, selections from which are on view at New York’s Robert Mann Gallery through October 27.