Von Lintel Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of photographs by David Maisel. In its first solo exhibition in New York, his acclaimed series, Library of Dust, runs January 21—February 27, 2010.
David Maisel's Library of Dust features copper canisters in varying states of metamorphosis. The containers are photographed individually, black backdrop in place, each posed like a subject sitting for a portrait. Maisel's treatment of these objects is apropos. The canisters, once stored in a dilapidated outbuilding of a state-run psychiatric hospital, hold the cremated remains of people—more specifically, the unclaimed ashes of the asylum's patients. The Oregon State Hospital, inaugurated as the Oregon State Insane Asylum in 1883, interred the canisters in an underground vault in the mid-1970s. As the vault flooded repeatedly, the canisters—some containing remains more than a century old—underwent potent transformations. The chemical composition of each cremated body's ashes has caused unique and colorful mineralogical blooms to form on its individual copper surface.
The results are dramatic. Monumental in scale, the photographs are at once violently beautiful and spectacularly haunting. We are reminded of Maisel's earlier series, aerial images of environmentally impacted lakes and mines, and his ability to pull us into imagined worlds. The canisters' patterns evoke the celestial or oceanic, something microscopic perhaps or a glimpse of our planet as seen from space. We are drawn by the accidental and transformative beauty in his photographs, but linger over the metaphysical, considering memory and loss, issues of matter and spirit.
David Maisel's Library of Dust has been the subject of a large-scaled monograph released by Chronicle Books in 2008. In addition, the work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Aperture, and ARTnews. Maisel’s photographs have been exhibited internationally and his work is represented in major public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. A native of New York, the artist currently lives and works in the San Francisco area.
David Maisel’s large-scaled, otherworldly photographs chronicle the complex relationships between natural systems and human intervention, piecing together the fractured logic that informs them both.
Maisel's aerial images 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."
Library of Dust depicts copper canisters containing the cremated remains of patients from a psychiatric institution. Vibrant minerals bloom on the urns' surfaces, as the copper reacts with the ashes held within. The New York Times Library of Dust monograph "a fevered meditation on memory, loss, and the uncanny monuments we sometimes recover about what has gone before."
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 Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Maisel was a Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute in 2007 and an Artist in Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in 2008. He has also been the recipient of an Individual Artist’s Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was short-listed for the Prix Pictet in 2008. Maisel lives and works in the San Francisco area, where he has been based since 1993.
Maisel's photographs, multi-media projects, and public installations have been exhibited internationally, and are included in many permanent collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others. His work has been the subject of three monographs: The Lake Project (Nazraeli Press, 2004), Oblivion (Nazraeli Press, 2006), and Library of Dust (Chronicle Books, 2008).
The subjects of Maisel's enormous new color photographs appear to be corroded tin cans, shot against pitch-black backdrops and lit like precious objects. They are, in fact, copper cannisters containing the cremated remains of patients from an Oregon mental hospital; stored for years in a vault that flooded repeatedly, they’ve been transformed into strangely alluring pieces of found sculpture. The corrosion manifests itself as a multicolored crust that resembles slathered paint, but one can recalls views of the earth from outer space: swirls of turquoise and green under billowy white clouds. If Maisel wants us to be conscious of these objects as memorials, his dramatic treatment and grand scale push the work toward pure aesthetics and away from issues of life and death. Through Feb. 27. (Von Lintel, 520 W. 23rd St. 212-242-0599.)
"Californian photographer David Maisel has spent years shooting the blighted landscapes around America's copper mines. No surprise, then, that in 2005 he was immediately intrigued when he read a small news item describing the efforts of the Oregon State Hospital to move the cremated remains of thousands of psychiatric patients who had died between 1913 and 1971. The article hardly suggested an art treasure — except to Maisel, who noticed that the remains were stored in copper canisters, which he guessed had probably turned to dazzling colors over the decades.
So they had. In Maisel's new book Library of Dust, he shows dozens of the canisters in larger-than-life size, their turquoise, pink and gold colors so sumptuous they look more like oil paintings than photographs. On some of the canisters, white powdery corrosion oozes from cracks — the after-effects of regular flooding in their underground storeroom — creating geomorphic shapes in brilliant hues. The abstract beauty of the canisters is a jolting contrast to their grim origins. And to Maisel, that's the point. "It's about beauty and horror," he says. "It's a double-edged thing — seductive and disturbing."
"RARELY ARE CULTURAL EVENTS so fortuitously mirrored by their venues as Monday’s group reading in honor of Library of Dust, David Maisel’s recent book of photographs of psychedelically corroded copper canisters encasing the ashes of unclaimed Oregon lunatics. Inside the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts on Norfolk Street, formerly one of the oldest synagogues in New York, the images—hung on the cobalt-blue peeled-paint walls and projected on-screen behind the altarlike stage—seemed to have always been there, matching their surroundings in hue and vibe, twin testaments to the stubborn efflorescence of decay. Sponsored by the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, the long, contemplative event applied layers of interpretation to the work as varied, inconsistent, and occasionally brilliant as the corrosion adorning the canisters. In tribute to the mental hospital’s nameless dead—whose identifying labels have been obscured by time—I will efface some of the thirteen participants.
After reading a quote from W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, Maisel said the Library of Dust project was "about loss of memory—and its recovery." He rushed to document the cache of canisters after hearing of it in 2005, as the Oregon State Hospital (formerly known as the Oregon State Insane Asylum, also the place where Milos Forman shot One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) was shutting down and clearing its archives. The vibrantly colored corrosion was, he said, the result of trace minerals from the cremains that had seeped through the lead seams of the copper canisters after years of water damage. He called the radical transmutation an "alchemical equation," the canisters "clocks, asserting the possibility of the soul’s existence." Eerily, a faint computerized female voice (probably from the lectern laptop) could be heard intoning "Good evening, and welcome to..." several times as Maisel spoke. He appropriated the name of the project, he said, from a prisoner whose work crew was helping close down the hospital, who saw the bland, officelike room housing the canisters as "a library of dust."
Geoff Manaugh, who runs Bldgblog and contributed an essay to Maisel’s book, followed, comparing the project to William Blake's mystical cosmology, which was partially inspired by chemicals and elements the poet used to fashion copper printing plates. Next was novelist Jonathan Lethem, who read a short, fanciful piece called "The Ballad of Henry Anonymous, Actually an Octopus," that turned out to be stitched together from sentences by Emerson, child psychotherapist Adam Phillips, and several scientists."
New picture prize puts climate crisis in the frame
Tue Jul 15, 2008 11:00am EDT
LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Images of droughts, floods and water destruction captured by some of the world's top photographers are competing for the first international award for photography focusing on sustainability.
Melting icebergs, parched landscapes, battered coastlines and uprooted trees are among images from 18 photographers selected for the shortlist of the first Prix Pictet which has water as the dominant theme in its inaugural year.
The images on the shortlist, selected from an entry list of 200 photographers from 43 countries, range from the abstract to the actual, all illustrating the relationship between water and mankind and the devastating effect each can have on the other.
"We all need to mobilize public opinion to support the changes we are dependent upon ... the Prix Pictet is a unique opportunity for the world's leading photographers to influence change for the good in the field of sustainability." said UN climate change special envoy Gro Harlem Brundtland.
The 50,000-pound ($100,000) prize was created by Swiss private bank Pictet et Cie and supported by the Financial Times.
The pictures will go on show at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris on October 30, and the winner will be announced the same night.
One week later they will start a world tour.
Meanwhile the shortlisted entries can be viewed at www.prixpictet.com where people can also cast their votes.
The shortlist consists of Benoit Aquin (Canada), Edward Burtynsky (Canada), Jesus Abad Colorado (Colombia), Thomas Joshua Cooper (US), Sebastian Copeland (UK), Christian Cravo (Brazil), Lynn Davis (US), Reza Deghati (Iran), Susan Derges (UK), Malcolm Hutcheson (UK), Chris Jordan (US), Carl De Keyzer (Belgium), David Maisel (US), Mary Mattingly (US), Robert Polidori (Canada), Roman Signer (Switzerland), Jules Spinatsch (Switzerland) and Munem Wasif (Bangladesh).
(Reporting by Jeremy Lovell, editing by Paul Casciato)
Essays by Geoff Manaugh, Terry Toedtemeier, and Michael Roth
13-1/4 x 17 in; 108 pp ; 80 color photographs
Published in August, 2008
The Lake Project Hardcover, 9 3/4 x 14 1/4 x 15, 60 pages, 36 four-color plates.
"Out of print. Extremely limited availability. For more than two decades, David Maisel has photographed civilization's aggressive advance across the American landscape. The sites he has pursued, the subjects he has discovered, and the abstract beauty he has confronted are all the more unfamiliar and disarming because of their aerial perspectives. Looking down from low-flying aircraft banking steeply over the terrain, Maisel constructs skewed landscapes that seem at times to have no horizons, no up or down, no near or far. The Lake Project documents Maisel's work around Owens Lake. This arid expanse, located just east of the Sierra Nevadas, is for the most part a desiccated bed of mineral deposits. Drained for the water needs of Southern California, it now contributes carcinogenic particles to the atmosphere during "dust events." These are not normal landscapes; there is no foreground, middle ground, or background but only the ground itself, teeming with malignant colors. David Maisel lives and works in California. This oversized book, superbly printed in color on matte Japanese art paper, is his first monograph." Nazarelli Press
Hardcover, 12 x 12, 48 pages, 15 duotone plates.
“In his book Warped Space, the architectural theorist Anthony Vidler speaks of the “paranoiac space of modernism,” a space which is “mutated into a realm of panic, where all the limits and boundaries become blurred.” These words come to mind when considering the urban aerial images of Los Angeles and its periphery. Certain spacial fears seem endemic to the modern metropolis, and Los Angeles defines this term in ways that no other American city can approximate. This amorphous skein of strip malls and gated developments, highway entrance and exit ramps, lays unfurled over the landscape like a sheet over a cadaver. . . As we cast a critical eye upon the megalopolis of Southern California, it is necessary to remind ourselves that there is still a heart beating within it. Indeed, 15 million hearts, with all the souls and dreams of the bodies powered by those hearts: the city as living, breathing organism, constantly breaking down and constantly replicating.” — David Maisel. The 15 aerial photographs of Los Angeles that make up Oblivion are distressingly beautiful, their post-apocalyptic feeling enhanced by reversed-out tones. Maisel shares with us his “shadowland,” a place previously unobserved that coexists with its sunstruck version. Introduction by William L. Fox." Nazarelli Press
David Maisel One Picture Book #49: Cascade Effect
Hardcover, 5 1/2 x 7 1/4, 16 pages, 8 duotone plates, one original print.
"In this elegant volume, David Maisel first publishes images made more than 20 years ago, of clearcut logging sites in northern Maine. The title refers to a series of environmental crises triggered by extinctions within an ecosystem. Accompanied by an excerpt from Susan Stewart’s poem The Forest, the images and words together limn an elegy for that which has incontrovertibly vanished."
Trouble in Paradise: Examining Discord between Nature and Society Casebound exhibition catalogue. Published by Tucson Museum of Art
"Artists are looking at the beauty and the terror in the forces of nature through their honest and emotional portrayals, while sending urgent messages to pay attention to the ravages society inflicts on the land through war and waste. This exhibition will examine a range of art in a variety of media that addresses extreme forces of nature in two basic categories: nature-based discord, such as lightning, tornadoes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and fire; and human-caused environmental discord such as pollution, over-population, global warming, oil field fires, atomic fallout, and destruction of land. The debate about how much of nature’s wrath is the result of human impact and interference is ongoing, but questions are posed through stunning visuals about the seemingly unstoppable cycle of cause and effect.
Many of the artists in this exhibition, including Edward Burtynsky, Richard Misrach, William T. Wiley, Mark Dion, and Joel Peter Witkin, imbue their work with haunting messages while objectively documenting the reality before them. Others exalt in the awesome beauty of the power of nature without judgment of its genesis or its conclusion. While offering a selected survey of powerful works that address the forces of nature, this exhibition is far from a “doom and gloom” portrayal of earth’s and society’s current situation, nor does it attempt to solve environmental problems. What emerges from these works is not only a revelation of the pressing environmental problems of our times, but how artists see the world and share that message with stunning beauty and poetic resonance."