Making the invisible visible is a central element of David Maisel’s work. Over the past three decades he has created powerful aerial photographs that expose the impact of industry, agriculture, urban sprawl, and other forms of human intervention on the landscape. Portrayed from such a distance, the environments he photographs, including lakes, open pit mines, and croplands, are indecipherable as such, instead appearing as painterly abstractions. The viewer fluctuates between being taken in by the visual allure of the photographs and a sense of unease created by their deliberately disorienting nature.
In a number of recent series, Maisel has shifted the scale his focus toward specific objects. Library of Dust (2005-2006) depicts the mineral corrosion on the surface of copper canisters from a hospital archive. Aesthetically similar to many of his aerial landscape projects, the patterns and hues of the corrosion blooms are both beautiful and disquieting. For History’s Shadow, created during a residency at the Getty Research Institute, Maisel re-photographed x-rays of sculptural antiquities from the conservation archives. The spectral images reveal both the front and back of the sculpture simultaneously, so that, as with the landscapes and copper canisters, they become unfamiliar to the viewer and thus open to new interpretations.
David Maisel was born in New York City in 1961. He received his BFA from Princeton University, and his MFA from California College of the Arts, San Francisco. His photographs, multi-media projects, and public installations have been exhibited internationally, and are included in many public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the Yale University Art Gallery; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others. Maisel’s work is the subject of six monographs: Black Maps (2013); History’s Shadow (2011); Library of Dust (2008); Cascade Effect (2008); Oblivion (2006); and The Lake Project (2004).