Based: San Francisco
David Maisel’s large-scaled aerial photographs of environmentally impacted sites explore the aesthetics and politics of open pit mines, clear-cut forests, and zones of water reclamation, framing the issues of contemporary landscape with equal measures of documentation and metaphor. As Leah Ollman states in the Los Angeles Times, “Maisel’s work over the past two decades has argued for an expanded definition of beauty, one that bypasses glamour to encompass the damaged, the transmuted, the decomposed.”
Maisel’s recent project Library of Dust inverts the scale of his landscape work, focusing instead on small, handmade objects laden with meaning and history. Library of Dust depicts copper canisters containing the cremated remains of unclaimed patients from a psychiatric institution. Vibrant minerals are now blooming on the urns’ surfaces, as the copper canisters react with the human ash held within. Library of Dust was the subject of a heralded symposium in 2009 at the New York Institute for the Humanities, which included presenters such as Ren Weschler, Geoff Manaugh, Luc Sante, and nearly a dozen other leaders in the humanities speaking on Maisel’s project.
Maisel’s work has been compiled in four award-winning monographs. The New York Times called Maisel’s Library of Dust monograph (Chronicle Books, 2008) “a fevered meditation on memory, loss, and the uncanny monuments we sometimes recover about what has gone before.” Library of Dust was named one of the best photography books of 2008 by Photo-Eye. The Lake Project (Nazraeli Press, 2004) Maisel’s first monograph, was selected as one of the top 25 photography books of the year by the critic Vince Aletti. Oblivion and Cascade Effect were also published by Nazraeli Press, in 2006 and 2008 respectively. History’s Shadow was published by Nazraeli Press with an essay by Jonathan Lethem, shows Maisel further exploring the boundaries and essential properties of the medium, as he re-photographed x-rays of art objects, drawing from existing archives the spectral visions of past cultures.
Maisel’s work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally in solo and group shows, including Black Maps, a traveling exhibition of his aerial landscapes, and Shadows and Dust, a solo exhibition at the California Museum of Photography containing more than one hundred prints from his series Library of Dust and History’s Shadow. He lectures widely, including talks at the Annenberg Space for Photography (Los Angeles), and the International Center of Photography (New York). His work is represented by Haines Gallery (San Francisco), and Ivory Press (Madrid), among others.
Maisel graduated from Princeton University and received his MFA from California College of the Arts, in addition to study at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He is the recipient of a 2008 Artist Residency from the Headlands Center for the Arts, and a 2007 Scholar/Artist Residency from the Getty Research Institute. Maisel was nominated for the 2009 Alpert Award in the Visual Arts, and short-listed for the 2008 Prix Pictet Award. He has received major fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Opsis Foundation. David Maisel’s works are in major public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and LACMA, among others. Maisel lives in the San Francisco area with his wife and daughter.