Mark Moore Fine Art is pleased to present History’s Shadow, the first exhibition at the gallery by American artist David Maisel. For over twenty-five years, Maisel’s photographic work has been wide-ranging in scope, and yet deeply focused on what he describes as a “long-term investigation into the aesthetics of entropy, and the dual processes of memory and excavation.”
History’s Shadow has as its source material x-rays of art objects that date from antiquity through just prior to the invention of photography. The x-rays have been culled from museum conservation archives, re-photographed and re-worked. Through the x-ray process, the artworks of origin become de-contextualized, yet acutely alive and renewed. The series concerns the dual processes and intertwined themes of memory and excavation.
Rendering three dimensions into two is at the heart of the photographic process. With the x-ray, this sense is compounded, since it maps both the inner and outer surfaces of its subject. The mysterious images that result encompass both an inner and an outer world, as the two-dimensional photographs bring us into a realm of indeterminate space, depth, and scale.
The x-ray has historically been used for the structural examination of art and artifacts much as physicians examine bones and internal organs; it reveals losses, replacements, methods of construction, and internal trauma that may not be visible to the naked eye. The resulting prints of History’s Shadowmake the invisible visible, and express through photographic means the shape-shifting nature of time itself, and the continuous presence of the past contained within us.
In his essay, Trace Elements and Core Samples, Maisel describes the transformative nature of the material:
“The ghostly images of these x-rays seemed to surpass the potency of the original objects of art. These spectral renderings were like transmissions from the distant past, conveying messages across time, and connecting the contemporary viewer to the art impulse at the core of these ancient works. Through the x-ray process, the artworks of origin become de-familiarized and de-contextualized, yet acutely alive and renewed, revivified. The shadow-worlds they occupy are informed by the black space surrounding the images, which in some instances becomes a vast nether world, and in others becomes the velvety ground of some kind of brain scan/portrait.”
David Maisel is a visual artist based in San Francisco, CA. His large-scaled, surreal photographs chronicle the complex relationships between natural systems and human culture. His research-based practice has been the subject of five monographs, including "The Lake Project" (Nazraeli Press, 2004), "Oblivion" (Nazraeli Press, 2006), "Library of Dust" (Chronicle Books, 2008), "History’s Shadow" (Nazraeli Press, 2011), and "Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime" (Steidl, 2013). Maisel's images of radically altered terrain have transformed the practice of contemporary landscape photography. His hallucinatory worldview encompasses both stark documentary and tragic metaphor, and explores the relationship between nature and humanity today. Maisel’s images of environmentally impacted sites consider the aesthetics and politics of open pit mines, clear-cut forests, rampant urbanization and sprawl, and zones of water reclamation. These surreal and disquieting images take us towards the margins of the unknown, and as the Los Angeles Times has stated, “argue for an expanded definition of beauty, one that bypasses glamour to encompass the damaged, the transmuted, the decomposed.” Maisel also explores similar ideas of perception through alternative techniques in other bodies of work, such as "History's Shadow" (completed during the artist's residency at the Getty Research Institute) and "Library of Dust," which The New York Times has called “a fevered meditation on memory, loss, and the uncanny monuments we sometimes recover about what has gone before.”
Maisel is the recipient of a 2011 grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation, a 2008 Artist Residency from the Headlands Center for the Arts, and a 2007 Scholar/Artist Residency from the Getty Research Institute. Maisel has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Opsis Foundation. He was appointed a Trustee of the Headlands Center for the Arts in 2011. His work has been shown globally, including in such prestigious institutions as the California Museum of Photography (CA), Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (AZ), Portland Art Museum (OR), Fotografie Forum International (Frankfurt), American Academy (Rome), Musee des Beaux Artes (Bordeaux), and Seoul Arts Center (Seoul) among many other venues. Maisel’s works are in major public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), the Getty Museum (CA), the National Gallery of Art (D.C.), the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (CA), among many other institutions. He received his BA from Princeton University, studied at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and received his MFA from California College of the Arts. The artist lives and works in Sausalito (CA).
For more information on David Maisel, please reference our artist page on the MMFA website at: http://www.markmoorefineart.com/artists/david-maisel