The Oakland Museum of California
(OMCA) and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
(BAM/PFA) announce the gift of 33 photographic prints by celebrated Bay Area photographer Richard Misrach (American, b. 1949) to each institution respectively. The photographs were taken immediately following the catastrophic firestorm that struck the Oakland and Berkeley hills in 1991. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of this devastating event, Misrach has donated these photographs to the prominent cultural institutions of the affected East Bay. Exhibitions of his work documenting the fire aftermath will take place at both institutions this fall.
"These prints are a tremendous gift to both the Oakland Museum of California and the community that lived through the firestorm," says OMCA's Curator of Photography Drew Johnson. "Misrach is one of the most important artists working today; this gift represents a lasting contribution to California's cultural history. The gift is perfectly aligned for OMCA as it reinforces our dedication to telling the many stories of California and the people and events that shape our heritage."
Out of respect for the victims of the fire-which killed 25 people, injured 150 others, and destroyed nearly 3,000 houses and 1,520 acres-Misrach's images have remained unexhibited for the last 20 years. This October, both the Oakland Museum of California and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will commemorate the disaster through exhibitions of Richard Misrach's photographs of the fire aftermath, as well as related works presented from their respective collections.
"This is an extraordinary gift to our museum and our community," says Lucinda Barnes, BAM/PFA chief curator and director of programs and collections. "We are indeed privileged to be the recipients of this exceptional body of work from Richard Misrach, one of the most important photographers of our generation. Misrach has created in these monumental photographs astounding works of art, which also serve as a provocative means of collective memory. As in much of his work, the fire photographs explore man's effects on the natural environment; in many cases, the result is decay and destruction, but there is also profound beauty in them."
1991: The Oakland-Berkeley Fire Aftermath, Photographs by Richard Misrach is on view October 12, 2011, through February 5, 2012, at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and October 15, 2011, through February 12, 2012, at the Oakland Museum of California. In addition each institution is presenting different companion installations to commemorate the fire. Visitors to both exhibitions can participate in recording histories surrounding the fire by contributing their own recollections and reflections in an over-sized handmade elegy book made by the artist.