Skip to content

Petrochemical America

Jan 15, 2015 – Mar 15, 2015

Northeastern University presents Petrochemical America on view from Jan 15 to March 15, 2015. Organized by Aperture Foundation, Petrochemical America represents a unique collaboration between photographer Richard Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff. The exhibition brings into focus the industrialized landscape of the Mississippi River Corridor that stretches from Baton Rouge to New Orleans—a place that first garnered attention as “Cancer Alley” because of unusually high reports of cancer and other diseases in the area. The exhibition reveals traces of their collaborative process and features Misrach’s haunting photographs of the region and Orff’s Ecological Atlas, a series of visual narratives, or “throughlines.”

The dialogue between photograph and drawing begins to unpack complex economic and ecological forces that have shaped this landscape, mapping cycles of extraction and transformation from the scale of the neighborhood, to the region, to the globe. Ultimately, this joint enterprise offers an expansion of both disciplines and a richly researched and concretely visualized study of the petrochemical industry and American culture, which has become intricately intertwined with its output.PetrochemicalAmerica

Born in Los Angeles, Richard Misrach has been widely exhibited and collected by major institutions worldwide. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his photography, including the Guggenheim Fellowship and four fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Richard Misrach has a longstanding association with the American south. His previous monograph, Destroy This Memory, offered a record of hurricane-inspired graffiti left on houses and cars in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. On the Beach and Violent Legacies addressed contamination of desert and beach areas.

Kate Orff is an assistant professor at Columbia University and founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture studio in Manhattan. Her work weaves together sustainable development, design for biodiversity, and community-based change. Orff’s recent exhibition at MoMA, Oyster-tecture, imagined the future of the polluted Gowanus Canal as part of a ground-up community process and an ecologically revitalized New York harbor.

Richard Misrach and Kate Orff discuss Petrochemical America.

Petrochemical America: Picturing Cancer Alley

Petrochemical America has been made possible, in part, with support from Gallery 360CAMD Urban Landscape Program, Northeastern University Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute and The Northeastern Center for the Arts.

Feature image credit: SCAPE / Landscape Architecture PLLC