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September 08, 2023

Acquisition: Richard Misrach

Richard Misrach, "Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona"

Richard Misrach
Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona, 2014
inkjet print
image: 220.98 x 297.18 cm (87 x 117 in.)
framed: 227.33 x 302.26 x 7.62 cm (89 1/2 x 119 x 3 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Sharyn and Bruce Charnas

Throughout his career, Richard Misrach (b. 1949) has made haunting landscape photographs to address some of the most pressing issues facing contemporary society—environmental pollution, poor land management, misogyny, racism—for his ongoing Desert Cantos project. Together, these pictures explore the southwest American desert landscape and humanity’s impact on it. As the artist explains, “You look at landscape, but it’s not really landscape, it’s a symbol for our country, it’s a metaphor for our country.” As part of this ongoing project, since 2004 Misrach has also been making photographs along the United States–Mexico border that he calls Border Cantos. The National Gallery of Art has acquired a work in this series, Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona (2014), a gift from Bruce and Sharyn Charnas.

Misrach has worked along the 2,000-mile border that separates Mexico and the United States to bear witness to its tragic human impact. He has photographed both the wall, which intermittently divides the two countries, and the poignant artifacts—shoes, children’s backpacks, and empty water bottles, as well as shooting targets and spent shotgun shells—that the migrants, the US military, and others have left behind.

Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona depicts a wall undulating through a vast empty landscape. Deeply moving, it suggests the arbitrariness of the border while questioning our efforts to stem the flow of either people or nature.

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