Yancey Richardson 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.”
Maisel’s previous work includes several aerial landscape portfolios exposing the surreal, almost incandescent imprint of industrial mining and mineral extraction operations throughout the American West. In a later project, Library of Dust, Maisel’s inquiries shifted dramatically in scale, to the unique imprint of mineral corrosion on individual copper canisters from a hospital archive.
History’s Shadow represents an elegant continuation of these well-established themes, utilizing x-rays as source material to explore the intersection of scientific research and visual art. The exhibition’s title comes from a project of the same name, inspired by the artist’s residency at the Getty Research Institute, during which time he re-photographed x-rays of sculptural antiquities culled from the museum’s conservation archives. According to Maisel, History’s Shadow refers “both to the literal images that the x-rays create as they are re-photographed, and to the metaphorical content informed by the past from which these objects derive.” 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.”
In addition to History’s Shadow, selections from Maisel’s Library of Dust series will be on display in the gallery’s project space. In Library of Dust, the artist photographed individual copper canisters containing the cremated remains of patients from a state-run psychiatric hospital, documenting the beautiful yet disquieting effect of mineral corrosion on each unique object. As in History’s Shadow, these transformative still-life objects float in a void against a pure black background, sublime meditations on the passage of time, memory, loss, and the metaphorical illustration of matter versus spirit.
David Maisel was born in New York City in 1961. He received his BA from Princeton University, and his MFA from California College of the Arts. 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; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Victoria & Albert Museum; the National Gallery of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum; the Brooklyn Museum; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the Yale University Art Gallery; the Nevada Museum of Art; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others. Maisel’s work has been the subject of five monographs: Black Maps (2013), History’s Shadow (2011), Library of Dust (2008), Oblivion (2006), and The Lake Project (2004).