Petrochemical America

Petrochemical America: Project Room

Project Room
September 2 - December 19, 2014
Opening Reception:September 6 - October 3, 2014

The Pomona College Museum of Art presents the traveling exhibition Petrochemical America on view from September 2 to December 19, 2014. 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.

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 associate 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.

A publication of Petrochemical America, with photographs by Richard Misrach and Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff, was released by Aperture in September 2012 and is available for purchase on

Petrochemical America has been made possible, in part, with support from Lee Walls, Jr. and the Turner Foundation.


Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes Podcast spotlights "Petrochemical America," a new book by artist Richard Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff.

Related Events: 
October 10 - 11, 2014
PetroLA: A SymposiumMore >