PDN Photo of the Day

Richard Misrach’s Hieroglyphics

In “The Writing on the Wall,” the latest chapter of Richard Misrach’s ongoing “Desert Cantos” project, on view at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco from July 13 to August 16, the photographer looks at human marks left on buildings in the deserts of California, Nevada and New Mexico. Made in response to the 2016 presidential election, the series records graffiti on rocks and abandoned houses or freestanding hand-painted signs, and finds a political message in these isolated places. Some texts are ambiguous—the white letters on a beige wall in Barstow have been mostly scraped away (although the swastika painted inside the building is still visible); a crude pictograph of a head bears a pointedly neutral expression. Other have clearer messages. “Trump Loves American People” declares a hand-painted sign on a grassy hill; “You Are Here,” etched on rusty metal, is easy to decipher if harder to interpret. Together, the fragments Misrach selects read like a murmur from the country’s collective subconscious, the real life equivalent to Internet chatter, tinged with hate but also with loneliness, despair and sometimes hope. As Misrach says in a statement about the work, “These are the hieroglyphics of our time.”

Half of the proceeds from the show will be donated to Human Rights Watch.

Related Stories:
Revisiting The Desert Cantos
The Recession’s Aftermath in the California Desert
How Top Photographers Conquer Self-Doubt, Part 1 (for PDN subscribers; login required)

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