First Thursdays at 49 Geary can be overwhelming, people-wise, and underwhelming, art-wise, and this month was different only in that the overwhelmingness was crammed into one place: the Fraenkel Gallery. Packed with people, it also displayed a face-melting collection of Richard Misrach photos.
When I first saw Misrach's photos, I thought immediately of Sebastiao Salgado. Both guys address big themes — civilizations, seasons, landscapes, human endeavors — but they do so in vastly different ways. Salgado frames his work around human action; his subjects are migrants, activitists, laborers. Misrach works with earth, light, space; he works with dunes, strangers, cars, power plants. Salgado's work is tied to current events, political movements, regimes, definable moments and recognizable things; Misrach works with more anonymous objects and landscapes. There are much more significant differences between them, but they share a social awareness that invests the best of their work with real intrigue and importance.