Art wants to be interesting and meaningful. Beauty just wants to be beautiful. Their relationship, as a result, is often difficult. It doesn't seem to bother Richard Misrach, though, who regularly makes high art from the ridiculously beautiful.
How does he do that?
Richard Misrach, 1.1.99 5:20 pm, 1999
I think it might have something to do with distance. Not just the obvious physical distance between camera and subject, but emotional distance. Misrach photographs with a sense of perspective, a reserve, that allows him to present the beautiful without wearing it on his sleeve.
Richard Misrach, Submerged Gazebo, Salton Sea, 1984
And what about the light? Have you ever seen a Misrach in which the light was not itself beautiful? I wonder if the crystalline quality of his light - like water on hot metal - doesn't somehow help temper all that beauty and anneal it into art.
Richard Misrach, Untitled # 696-05, 2005
Or it may simply be that Misrach has uncanny taste, preternatural knowledge of where art ends and kitsch begins.
Whatever it is, it seems to work. And Fraenkel Gallery has an interesting exhibit of early Misrach night pictures until December 22. Don't miss it.