Yancey Richardson Gallery is pleased to present Atlas, a solo exhibition of large-scale aerial photographs by David Maisel, on view May 17 through July 6, 2018. Comprising works from a number of the artist’s major series, the exhibition explores Maisel’s use of form, color, perspective, and abstraction to reshape our understanding of industrialized landscapes altered by the destructive forces of humankind.
For over thirty years, Maisel has produced photographs of compromised landscapes, revealing the physical impact of activities such as mining, logging, urban sprawl, and military testing. Rather than create literal documents, the artist has exploited the slippage between the evidentiary and aesthetic functions of photography. The resulting images subvert cartographic mapping, instead occupying a zone both imaginative and descriptive, informed by the politics of land use.
The series Terminal Mirage, inspired by Robert Smithson’s writings, scrutinizes the periphery of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, including areas affected by industrial pollution, mineral evaporation, and munitions storage by the army. Other series featured in Atlas include The Lake Project, investigating water reclamation at Owens Lake, California; The Mining Project, focused on open pit mines throughout the Rocky Mountains; and The Fall, examining land use in the La Mancha region of Spain. Maisel has described his photographs as “psychic landscapes” – portraits of the society responsible for creating these sites.
His concept of exterior and interior forces reinforces the dialogue between representation and abstraction that sits at the heart of his practice. From the air, this transformation of the land becomes both awe-inspiring and terrifying – otherworldly dreamscapes rendered in lush hues accompany visions of environmental devastation. The photographs border on the edge of abstraction, subverting spatial relationships and scale to create a simultaneously alluring and disorienting experience for the viewer and suggesting the painterly abstractions of Mark Rothko or Helen Frankenthaler.
Born in New York City in 1961, Maisel lives and works in San Francisco. He was named as a Guggenheim Fellow for 2018 and a Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute in 2007. 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. He received his BFA from Princeton University, and his MFA from California College of the Arts, San Francisco. His photographs will be featured in the upcoming exhibition New Territory: Landscape Photography Today at the Denver Art Museum. Maisel’s work is the subject of seven monographs: Mount St Helens: Afterlife (2017); Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime (2013); History’s Shadow (2011); Library of Dust (2008); Cascade Effect (2008); Oblivion (2006); and The Lake Project (2004).