Richard Misrach

Born in 1949 in Los Angeles, California (US)
Lives and works in Emeryville, California (US)

Palm Tree

Black and white photograph, gelatin-silver print
39 x 39 cm
Year of Purchase: 1985

For those who are slightly acquainted with the work of Richard Misrach, these three photographs, taken between 1975 and 1977, may represent a basic grammar, a sort of introduction to his poetic art… Misrach himself theorizes about the tension which underpins all his work. His intent, first and foremost, is to produce studies on specific objects (a rock, a cactus, an animal…) in order to form his ‘personal iconography’. For the artist, these subjects do not in themselves have any metaphorical value, but they acquire one for those who look at them through the photograph. For next comes the question of the medium, form and properties of the image (point of view adopted, choice of lenses, colours, format, printing options, etc.). Although these concerns are linked by a relationship of artistic necessity, they are situated on two quite distinct planes: ‘The cactus is one thing, and the photograph that will be made of it is something very different’. It is this relationship between the work and its concrete referent that is expressed early on and very clearly in Boulder, Palm Tree and White Sands – the rock, the palm tree, and the expanse of white sand are isolated in the middle of the square (the most static of formats), an effect emphasized by the aura created by the artificial lighting used by the photographer. The formalism of the image in no way prevents us from being gripped by the ‘reality’ seen. But by isolating such fragments of the world, the artist lends them a particularly sublime property.

Olivier Goetz