In Violent Legacies the acclaimed photographer Richard Misrach (*1949) has compiled three new “cantos“ in his ongoing series of photographs exploring the desert in the American West.
The desert has long been a metaphor in Misrach's art. In Violent Legacies these barren lands, so often romanticized, undergo an eerie transformation at the hands of man and become an unmistakable reflection of militarism, violence, and environmental destruction. In “Project W-47 (The Secret)“ Misrach reveals classically inspired vistas of the Utah deadlands, tainted forever by their past incarnation as Wendover Air Base – the secret training and planning site for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. “The Pit“ is a Goyaesque series that focuses on the mysterious death of livestock in very close proximity to a former nuclear test site in the Nevada desert. These photographs are a chilling reminder of U.S. and global nuclear contamination. “The Playboys“ are Misrach's studies of Playboy magazines that were used for target practice by persons unknown on the fringes of the Nevada Nuclear Test Site.
Richard Misrach unveils a landscape of terrible beauty and great metaphorical power. He asks us to confront the violence in human nature, the skeletons in our closet, the radiant glow on the horizon.
Susan Sontag uses these cantos as a springboard to an allegorical tale – “The View from the Ark“ – a subtle, yet probing meditation on violence in contemporary society. A postscript interview with Richard Misrach provides background information about the sites comprising Violent Legacies.