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For over 30 years, Richard Misrach has been producing an epic photographic poem on the American West, divided (in the manner of Dante or Ezra Pound) into sections called cantos. The Desert Cantos examines the places where civilization runs up against nature, with often-disastrous effects on the land. One section focuses on two Playboy magazines Misrach found near the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, propped up against a gutted television and used for shooting practice by locals. Although the women on the covers had been the intended targets, Misrach realized that the bullets had pierced many aspects of contemporary culture: not only centerfold models but also political figures like Oliver North and Gloria Steinem; celebrities such as Madonna, Ray Charles, and Dennis Quaid; advertisements for alcohol, cigarettes, and shampoo; and, as shown here, art-world personalities like Andy Warhol. Such imagery becomes, in Misrach’s enlarged photographs, emblematic of an American culture riddled with violence.
MEDIUM: Chromogenic print
ART FORM: Photograph