houston

Richard Misrach

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Calling the eighteen photographic portfolios sampled in this midcareer retrospective “cantos” allows Richard Misrach to foreground the poetic intent of this enormous project. His aesthetic is deeply affected by political judgments, but it is ultimately concerned with dualisms like nature and culture, wilderness and civilization, situated in a thicket of references to the history of photography as an art form. The pictures in “Canto I: The Terrain,” 1981–84, set out this encounter from the first. A photograph of a canyon vista, for example, includes tourists contemplating the scene, and studies of light and atmosphere in the San Jacinto Mountains also register the scar of a dirt road whose track across the desert likely got the photographer there. The Santa Fe, 1982, shows the tail end of a freight train crossing a level stretch of land. The lines of the rail, train, and horizon establish

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