“Castaneda brought me into the desert,” says Richard Misrach, who’s

been shooting deserts with an eight-by-ten view camera for nearly 20 years now. “In hindsight it was pretty hokey.”

Misrach’s 60s spiritualism evolved into a hybrid of aesthetics and activism. Sometimes he shoots pristine vistas; other times he aims at our violations of the landscape–a pit of dead animals, a Playboy used for target practice, a bomb crater. “In a way I’m politicizing the skies and aestheticizing the dead animals,” he says.

“Crimes and Splendors: The Desert Cantos of Richard Misrach,” a retrospective of this work, opens Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, and runs through June 29. Misrach will give a lecture there Sunday at 2; call the museum at 312-280-2660 for more information or 312-397-4010 for tickets, which cost $10 ($8 for students and seniors). Friday at 5, a smaller show of his photos opens at Catherine Edelman Gallery, 300 W. Superior, 312-266-2350. –Bill Stamets

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): “Desert Canto XV; The Salt Flats” by Richard Misrach.