Artists To Admire: David Maisel – who appears at the Annenberg Space for Photography on Thursday, May 20th

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David Maisel has dedicated two decades of his life to capturing aerial images centered on the impact of human interaction with our natural environment, which is a hell of a lot more than i’ve done. his photography appears to be a sublime abstract experience, a Rothko-esque exploration of color, line and shape, until you realize that the extended palette is the result of chemical pollutions unleashed on the landscape and the graphic elements are scars cut deep into the earth by crass mercantilism. if that’s too heavy for you, don’t worry, he relaxes with more personal projects. his Library of Dust series, for instance, explores the corrosive beauty of oxidizing canisters that are full of the unclaimed ashes of deceased mental patients from an abandoned mental asylum. fun! sure, it’s a little depressing, but it’s important work, and Maisel has an incredible eye for compositional detail with imagery that packs a helluva visual impact. pretty AND message-y… just like me.
Thursday, May 20th, the Annenberg Space for Photography is continuing it’s IRIS Nights Lecture Series with “Black Maps” – An Evening with David Maisel from 6.30 to 8pm. it’s free, so register for the night here and do it quickly because space fills up fast. more images and more information about Maisel from the Annenberg site after the jump.

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David MaiselFor more than twenty years, David Maisel has been making aerial photographs of sites of environmental impact. This extended series, called Black Maps, shows the undoing of the natural world by wide-scaled human intervention in the landscape. His images of zones where the natural order has been eradicated are both spectacular and horrifying. Although Maisel’s photographs evidence the devastation of these locations, they also transcribe interior, psychic landscapes—for, as otherworldly and surreal as these images appear, they depict shattered realities of our own making. The forms of environmental disquiet and degradation function on a metaphorical level, and the aerial perspective enables one to experience the landscape like a vast map of its undoing. Black Maps has unfolded in chapters, focusing on such subjects as strip-mines, clear-cuts, leaching fields, tailings ponds, and firestorms. The Lake Project (2001-2003) is comprised of images made in the vicinity of Owens Lake in California, which was drained and depleted to bring water to the desert city of Los Angeles, and which became an enormous environmental disaster in this process. Terminal Mirage (2003-2005) uses aerial images made at the site of the Great Salt Lake as a means to explore both abstraction and, as the curator Anne Tucker has written about this series, “the disturbingly engaging duality between beauty and repulsion.”

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, in addition to study at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. He was a 2007 Visiting Scholar at the Getty Research Institute, and a 2008 Artist in Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Maisel is represented in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and others. His monograph The Lake Project(Nazraeli Press, 2004), was selected as one of the Top 25 Photography Books of 2004 by the critic Vince Aletti. His second monograph, Oblivion (Nazraeli Press, 2006), depicts tonally-reversed black and white aerial views of Los Angeles.

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