Maisel ’84 photographs environmentally impacted sites

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David Maisel ’84 (Photo Courtesy: David Maisel ’84)

New book: Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime, by David Maisel ’84 (Steidl)

The author: Maisel is a San Francisco-based photographer. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among others.

The book: The more than 100 photographs of aerial landscapes in Black Maps capture environmentally impacted sites, including mines, clear-cut forests, drying lakes, power plans, and sprawl.

Images from the book:

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The Lake Project 20 (Photo: David Maisel/INSTITUTE)

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American Mine (Carlin NV2) (Photo: David Maisel/INSTITUTE)

 

Opening lines: “Photography is a medium well-suited to record and imagine the world. It is a cipher for knowledge and a precise yet malleable cataloguing system that can be used to make sense of things that are not readily identifiable. And it can be terrifyingly particular in its results. Something beautiful and disquieting happens when David Maisel trains his camera on unfamiliar tracts of land that have been radically reshaped by mechanized activity and environmental neglect,” wrote Julian Cox, chief curator at the de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, in the book’s introduction. “His quest has taken him up into the air and towards the boundaries of the unknown to unveil a world that most of us have not seen before.”

Review: “The work in Black Maps …  relies on abstraction,” wrote Time magazine’s Paul Moakley. Maisel “creates full-frame surrealist visions of toxic lakes and captures the maddening designs of man-altered landscapes. In the abstract series The Lake Project (slide 15), viewers are overwhelmed by alien colors, allured by frame after frame of man-made destruction. The repetitive nature of viewing this destruction from a distance creates a sublime beauty in a classical sense. …  Maisel’s work becomes a meditation on ourselves and what we’ve done to the planet.”

Exhibition: Maisel’s work from Black Maps will be on view through Sept. 1 at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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