Cargo Ships (January 11, 2022, 5:02pm), 2022 pigment print © Richard Misrach, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Richard Misrach “New Old Pictures/New New Pictures” at Fraenkel Gallery

Fraenkel Gallery is now staging “New Old Pictures/New New Pictures,” an exhibition of large-format photographs by Richard Misrach, his fifteenth with the gallery since 1985. The exhibition marks the debut of his new series, Cargo, atmospheric studies of maritime traffic that raise questions about international commerce and the supply chain upon which the world now depends. Also on view will be works made from recently discovered negatives produced throughout Misrach’s near five-decade career. The gallery will host an opening reception with the artist on Thursday, June 29, from 5:30 to 7:30pm, and a book signing with the artist on Saturday, July 29, from 2 to 4pm.

Misrach began Cargo in 2021, as the global shipping industry faced a critical moment. The photographs in this ongoing series are made from a single vantage point in San Francisco, looking south and east across the bay. Photographed throughout the changing seasons, the five images on view capture the glow of the Port of Oakland at dawn and ships seen by afternoon and evening light. In their careful observation of the drama of sky and water, the images suggest a comparison to J.M.W Turner’s seascapes, and recall Misrach’s On the Beach series, which similarly depended on patient waiting for the convergence of light and subject.

The exhibition also features approximately 10 new works made from negatives spanning 25 years, from 1984 to 2009, many of them previously unseen or unpublished. Returning to his archive, Misrach selected images that hadn’t fit into larger projects but which, when viewed today, have gained new meaning. “Photographs, when they’re made, can shift meaning with time, and often do,” Misrach has noted. Many of the works were made as part of Misrach’s Desert Cantos series, which explores the impact of our human presence on the deserts of the American Southwest. The selection features photographs of iconic land art installations including Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels and Michael Heizer’s City, and images of the Great Salt Lake Desert and Battleground Point, where Misrach recorded figures among the water and dunes, setting the photograph apart from other work in the series. Other works include a cloud-filled print from the Golden Gate series, and a view of an Oregon beach that was previously featured in the artist’s Color Reverse series. Printed as the camera originally recorded the scene, the image takes on a new life. Together, the photographs serve as a brief and idiosyncratic survey of Misrach’s career.

Richard Misrach (born 1949) has been photographing the American West for more than 50 years, and is perhaps best known for his ongoing Desert Cantos series. Misrach recently collaborated with San Francisco’s Alonzo King LINES Ballet on their Spring 2023 season, incorporating his photographs of company dancers in Hawaii into backdrops and costumes for the performance, which will travel throughout the U.S. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Centre Pompidou, Paris, among others. His work has been featured in more than a dozen monographs, including Telegraph 3 A.M.; Bravo 20: The Bombing of the American West; Crimes and Splendors: The Desert Cantos of Richard Misrach; On the Beach; Destroy this Memory; Petrochemical America; and Border Cantos. Recent publications include Blind Spot Folios 001: Nancy Holt & Richard Misrach, which presents Misrach’s previously unseen images of Holt’s Sun Tunnels; On Landscape and Meaning, from Aperture’s Photography Workshop Series; and Notations, published by Radius Books, which explores the negative image in photography. He is the recipient of numerous awards including four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship.