This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast spotlights “Petrochemical America,” a new book by artist Richard Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff. The book examines the industrialized Mississippi River corridor between Baton Rouge, La., and New Oreleans. The region is infamous for its density of petrochemical plants and for high rates of disease, particularly cancer.
The book features Misrach’s pictures, commissioned by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and landscape architect Kate Orff’s Ecological Atlas, a series of narratives that establish a relationship between Misrach’s photographs, the region and man-made and ecological forces. An exhibition of Misrach’s and Orff’s work is on view now in the project room at Aperture’s New York gallery through October 6. Misrach’s ‘Cancer Alley’ pictures are on view at the High through October 7. (The book is also published by Aperture. Amazon lists it at $30 off.)
Misrach’s work is in the collection of virtually every major museum in America. He is best known for his large-format color pictures of dramatic, often disastrous human interventions in the landscape. He has also made moving photographs of disasters, such as the 1991 East Bay Fire and the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina. I reviewed Misrach’s extraordinary post-Katrina book “Destroy This Memory” here and here.
On the second segment, Orff discusses her contribution to the project. She is the principal of SCAPE, a landscape architecture and urban design office. Her practice revolves about how to encourage and enact sustainable development and biodiversity through landscape. She teaches at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and her work has been exhibited in museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The art: Joel Sternfeld, Abandoned Uranium Refinery near Tuba City, Arizona, Navajo Nation, 1982.
The news: “Uranium Mines Dot Navajo Land, Neglected and Still Perilous,” by Leslie Macmillan in The New York Times.
The source: Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The art: Top: Pirkle Jones, Town of Monticello, Early Spring, 1956, from the series “Death of a Valley,” 1956. Bottom: Unknown photographer for Eastman’s Originals, Berryessa Lake, Monticello Dam, California, 1960.
The news: “The Green Elite: The Top 10 States for Renewable Power,” by Jordan Weissmann for TheAtlantic.com. Each of the top 10’s leading source of power is hydroconventional.
The source: The Pirkle Jones picture is from the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The photo from the Eastman’s Originals Collection is in the special collections of the University of California, Davis, and was accessed via the indispensable Calisphere.
Critical note: In 1956 Pirkle Jones and Dorothea Lange collaborated on one of most underrated documentary projects of the post-war era: The evacuation and subsequent destruction of the Napa County town of Monticello, Calif. so that the federal Bureau of Reclamation could build Monticello Dam and create Lake Berryessa. Today the dam provides electricity to northern counties of the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Jones-Lange project, titled “Death of a Valley,” was featured in a special issue of Aperture magazine in 1960.
The art: Joseph Pennell, Coal — Abomination of Work, Mahanoy River, 1908.
The news: “EPA to Unveil Stricter Rules for Power Plants,” by Elizabeth Shogren for NPR News.
The source: Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. More 1908 Pennells about coal are here.
The art: Carleton Watkins, Big River from the Rancherie, City of Mendocino, 1863.
The news: “America’s Wild and Scenic Rivers: More than four decades after it became law, a little-known federal act safeguards hundreds of primordial waterways,” by Joel K. Bourne, Jr. for National Geographic Magazine.
The source: Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Other prints are in the collection of the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, Calif., and at the Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.
This Watkins is also included in “Carleton Watkins: The Complete Mammoth Photographs,” by Weston Naef and Christine Hult-Lewis with a team of contributors. This landmark book was just published by the J. Paul Getty Museum and Getty Publications.
The art: Marsden Hartley, Mt. Katahdin, Maine, No. 2, 1939-40.
The news: “Is The Time Right For A ‘Maine Woods National Park?’” by Kurt Repanshek in National Parks Traveler. Mount Katahdin is in Maine’s Baxter State Park. A proposed new national park would abut Baxter, would protect the watershed of which the mountain is a part, and would be substantially made up of land donated by Roxanne Quimby, whose fortune comes from Burt’s Bees products.
The source: Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Other Hartley views of Mt. Katahdin are at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and at the National Gallery of Art. Another version of the Met’s painting, Mt. Katahdin, Autumn, No. 1 (1939-40), is at the Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Neb.
The art: Bright Ugochukwu Eke, Acid Rain, 2009. (The piece’s materials include water, plastic bags and carbon. See here for more.)
The news: “Storms Brewing” by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker. “On Climate Change, GOP Candidates Race to the Fringe,” by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.
The source: Rethinkclimate.org, the website for an exhibition organized in 2009 by the National Gallery of Denmark, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center and the Alexandra Institute.