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Richard Misrach (b. 1949)
Richard Misrach (b. 1949)

Untitled, #213-04 from On the Beach, 2004

Details
Richard Misrach (b. 1949)
Untitled, #213-04 from On the Beach, 2004
chromogenic print, printed 2007
signed, dated, print date and numbered '2/5' '213-04' in ink on label affixed (on the frame backing)
image/flush-mount: 71 x 90 1/2in. (180.3 x 229.9cm.)
Provenance
With Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Darius Himes
Darius Himes

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Lot Essay

Richard Misrach is one of the most celebrated photographers of the past 30 years, working primarily in color and deeply concerned with our relationship to the land. Over the course of the 1990s, a period when the base of his critical acclaim broadened steadily, he released numerous influential photobooks, including Bravo 20: The Bombing of the American West, Violent Legacies, Crimes and Splendors: The Desert Cantos of Richard Misrach (containing 18 of his well-known series, Desert Cantos), The Sky Book, and began working in Louisiana on a project he called Cancer Alley, which was eventually published by Aperture as an award-winning book titled Petrochemical America.

At the turn of the millennium, Misrach embarked on another long-term project that came to be called On The Beach, and opened as a major traveling museum exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, with accompanying book, in 2007. Photographing from high atop a building perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Misrach showed the beach below in various states. Sometimes it was fully packed with people, at other times completely devoid of humans, but it was always as a stage:

'I often thought that I was watching a performance or silent opera below. I cultivated this illusion by cropping the horizon line from my pictures, and subtly using the swings and tilts of the view camera; in the pictures, it appears that I’m hovering over people. From my perspective—above and at some distance—it was the gesture of the full body itself that was expressive. These pictures are about people; they are portraits, not of faces, but of bodies. I watched people express their humanity, like some sort of choreographed dance below. But what was exciting to me was that it wasn’t choreographed by them, nor directed by me. It was found.'

When the figures below are depicted as isolated against the sand or water, an inherent vulnerability is readily apparent. 'These images are suffused with a sense of the sublime, but it also begins to expose our vulnerability and fragility as human beings,' the artist states.

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