Friday, April 5, 2013

Museum of Craft & Design reopens, Misrach's 'Cancer Alley' at the Cantor

After losing their space in 2010, the Museum of Craft and Design has finally found a new home in the old American Can Company factory on the edge of Dogpatch, San Francisco's latest trendy district. The public opening kicks off tomorrow, Saturday April 6, 2013, with a community celebration of the new museum and inaugural exhibits.
The new location is at 2569 Third Street in San Francisco. For more information, go to

At the Cantor: Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach’s "Cancer Alley"

Like the Western landscapes for which Misrach is best known, these photographs challenge viewers with environmental, political and social concerns while engaging them with evocative and lyrically beautiful large-scale prints. In focusing on the delicate state of the Mississippi River, Misrach signals not just the environmental challenges facing the South but also the larger costs of our modern world at the dawn of the 21st century. His photographs are a stark commentary on the concentration of petrochemical complexes located along this 100-mile stretch of the Mississippi River.

For the 85 miles between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the haunting swamplands of the Mississippi River corridor—called America’s wetland for its biological value to the nation—bump up against the sprawling refineries and paraphernalia of the petrochemical industry. Industry leaders call this stretch of the Mississippi, sandwiched between 150-plus oil and gas plants on both sides of its devastated banks, Chemical Corridor. But locals—who blame the millions of pounds of toxic chemicals pouring out of industry smokestacks every year for high rates of miscarriages, cancer, respiratory ailments and other serious diseases—have another name for it. They call it Cancer Alley.

Looking through Misrach’s lens, the viewer comes to realize that Cancer Alley’s industrial corridor—which produces almost one-third of America’s gasoline, plastics and other chemicals—is generating a lethal combination of pollutants that is quietly deteriorating local communities and watersheds, leaving behind only cryptic relics of what was once a richly diversified past.

Hazardous Waste Containment Site, Dow Chemical Corporation, Mississippi River, Plaquemine, Louisiana, negative 1998, print 2012

But his images do more than hint at pollution and death: The petrochemical industry reveals itself as an omnipresent and brazen specter through the photographs’ rusted pipelines, mammoth tankers and tangles of steel, concrete and smokestacks belching noxious fumes and toxins into the air and water.

The exhibition “Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley” highlights the severe environmental degradation of the Mississippi River corridor from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. The show, which includes 19 large-scale color photographs and 14 contact sheets, is on view from March 27 to June 16, 2013 at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford.

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