The Desert Cantos
Inaugurating our newest gallery space, Robert Mann Gallery is pleased to simultaneously celebrate our history by launching the exhibition program with an exemplary collection of photographs by Richard Misrach.
Spanning the first 25 years of Misrach's career, the exhibition will offer a rare opportunity to track the artistic development of one of the most significant living American photographers. The chronology of the exhibition begins with the luscious split-toned works realized with a flash shot into desert night scenes. Eerie and magnificent, these works introduce many of the themes that would occupy Misrach in the years to come: staging the condition of aesthetic beauty of the natural world as mediated by human intervention in the landscape — in this case the photographer's own invasive flash. The sublime nature of the damage wrought on the landscape by man-made disasters forms the central theme of his Desert Cantos series. These concerns can be further traced through the Playboy series, Battleground Point, and the dramatic views from Misrach's porch tracking meteorological conditions around San Francisco Bay's Golden Gate.
These related bodies of work secured Misrach's place as the preeminent American photographer of his generation investigating issues surrounding landscape. Emerging out of the legacy of the New Topographics movement and informed by a strong ecological consciousness, but with a broad enough conceptual range to admit appropriation-like strategies, Misrach's work points to several of the creative lineages that define Robert Mann Gallery's exhibition program, from Ansel Adams to Joe Deal to Mary Mattingly. Having been the first gallery in New York to feature many of these series, it is with great pleasure that Robert Mann Gallery returns to these seminal works by Misrach to inaugurate this, our third venue.
The prints on display in the exhibition are drawn from a single private collection, likely the largest such group of works by Misrach, assembled over the course of several decades. Many of the works are from sold out editions and have been unavailable for some time.
Richard Misrach is among the most celebrated living photographers, with solo exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the High Museum in Atlanta, among many others. His works are featured in the collections of the major arts institution worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris, France, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Born in Los Angeles, California in 1949, he lives and works in Berkeley, California.
The Wall Street Journal
October 6, 2012
This exhibition of work from Richard Misrach's first 25 years as a photographer gives New Yorkers a rare opportunity: Robert Mann has up a 20-by-24-inch chromogenic dye coupler print of "Swamp and Pipeline, Geismar, Louisiana" (1998) at the same time the Aperture Gallery a block away has up a print of the same negative that is 60 inches by 76 1/2 inches, almost 10 times as large. The picture exemplifies Mr. Misrach's masterly handling of color; the swamp water is a delicate gray-green, the leafless tree trunks are varying shades of gray, the sky a very pale gray, and the pipeline that intrudes on nature with its straight line also intrudes on nature's color scheme with its rust-brown. Which print is the more effective? I invite the philosophers who take advantage of this opportunity to post comments on their choice.
Included at Mann are four prints using the rare split-tone technique that Mr. Misrach (b. 1949) experimented with in the mid-1970s, but the 15 vintage color prints are the main attraction. "Desert Fire #249" (1985), with its beautiful, but insidious, line of flame zigzagging across an immense area; "Danny Boy, Bonneville Salt Flats" (1992), with what appears to be a jet-propelled motorcycle patiently waiting on the white plain, majestic mountains in the distance; the beautiful "Battleground Point #22" (1999), with its sculptured heap of golden sand and sky of variegated blues reflected symmetrically in a placid lake: These are the classic works with which Mr. Misrach established his reputation.