Untitled #213-04 Misrach, Richard  (American, b.1949)

This photo, from Misrach’s On The Beach series, was captured from a high balcony in Hawaii. Focusing his lens on a single swimmer, the artist composed a voyeuristic image, which exudes a sense of peace and loneliness while underscoring the man’s vulnerability. On The Beach was largely influenced by the events of 9/11. Though Misrach was in Washington D.C. at the time, his son was in New York City during the attack. Deeply haunted by the event, Misrach began exploring the ideas of someone watching. Describing On The Beach, Misrach said, “I always thought about it as being a god’s-eye view, looking down and seeing these amazing human interactions.”

Richard Misrach has said that the work in the series On the Beach is “suffused with a sense of the sublime, but it also begins to expose our vulnerability and fragility as human beings.“ Light, color, and form are crucial components in Misrach’s explorations of difficult subjects. In On the Beach, he uses a gorgeous, slowly shifting color palette gleaned from changes in depth and tide; abstract patterns of waves and rippling water; and beaches both empty and cluttered. Throughout this series, Misrach balances the minutiae of human gesture against the massive scale of the sea.

I was drawn to the frailty and grace of the human figure in the landscape. My thinking about this work was influenced by the events of 9/11, particularly by the images of individuals and couples falling from the World Trade Towers, as well as by the 1950’s Cold War novel and film, ‘On The Beach.’ Paradise has become an uneasy dwelling place; the sublime sea frames our vulnerability, the precarious nature of life itself. "The sea here stands for the uncontrollable forces that toss us back and forth, and under which we are fragile and helpless. The vastness of the photographs (the book is very large at 16 x 20 inches) is thus suitably overwhelming, as, at first, we don’t know what to make of all the space and then begin to wonder about those figures dotting the frame, taking in the scale of the ocean against them – and as we start to identify with them and recognize our own frailty, apprehension quickly creeps in. Richard Misrach