Richard Misrach: Never the Same

From the Art21 digital series “Extended Play”

Published Wednesday, May 11, 2022

While at work in the San Francisco Bay Area, photographer Richard Misrach reflects on his decades-long career, realizing that there is still more to learn about photography and himself after all this time. Myriam Weisang Misrach, author and wife of the artist, first wrote about Richard’s practice when assigned to profile him for a magazine and has continued to document their travels with insightful and poetic descriptions of his process and work. Together they have visited nuclear test sites, open burial grounds for dead animals, and arid alien landscapes, uncovering an often unseen beauty and liveliness in things dead, destroyed, and left behind. “I know the viewer can’t think what I’m thinking, and that’s fine,” says Misrach, “But I wanted everything here to have a conceptual foundation.” 

Early COVID-19 lockdowns prevented Misrach from traveling in his normal fashion when the Pritzker Psychiatric Clinic at the University of California – San Francisco commissioned him to produce work for their new building. As a result, Misrach returned to the vast archive of negatives and contacts housed in his studio, many of which have never been printed. With a new embrace of technologies like Photoshop, the artist was able to create new works based on his existing photographs and negatives, “riffing” on images to build a new visual language. Misrach was initially surprised to be commissioned for this project because of the intensity of the imagery and subject matters he is known for. However, in reexamining his archive Misrach realized that he always sought out beauty to counter the darker themes of his other work. “50 years looking back,” the artist says, “I realize I needed beauty in my life.”

  • Films — Art21 Presents "Richard Misrach: Never the Same", May 11, 2022