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Career Narrative

In his ongoing, multi-chaptered series Black Maps, David Maisel’s aerial photographs of environmentally impacted sites explore the aesthetics and politics of radically human-altered environments, framing the issues of contemporary landscape with equal measures of documentation and metaphor. Curator Robert Sobieszek states, “Maisel has succeeded in mapping the fictive terrains of the unconscious, of nightmares and hallucinations. He has also used the camera’s objectifying optics to form cartographies of the irrational and the perverse, the preconscious and the primordial, the apocalyptic.”

In projects such as Library of Dust and History’s Shadow, Maisel investigates institutional archives, and shows the power of objects to convey meaning over time. Library of Dust depicts one hundred copper canisters, each containing the cremated remains of a psychiatric patient unclaimed after their death. The canisters are reacting with their ashen remains, causing mineral encrustations to bloom on their metallic surfaces. In History’s Shadow, Maisel uses x-rays depicting sculpture, painting, and artifacts from antiquity as source material in the creation of new photographic artwork. Through the x-ray process and the subsequent re-photography of these scientific records, the objects from antiquity go through a process of transmutation, becoming reanimated and renewed.

His work has been exhibited internationally, including Landmark: The Fields of Photography (Somerset House, London); Surveying the Terrain, (Raleigh Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh); History Recast: Contemporary Photography of Classical Sculpture (American Academy, Rome); Memory Theater, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY; Infinite Balance: Artists and the Environment (Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego); Imagination Earth (Seoul Arts Center); Imaging a Shattering Earth: Contemporary Photography and the Environmental Debate (Museum Of Contemporary Art, Toronto, and the National Gallery of Art, Ottawa); Dark Matters: Artists See the Impossible (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco), and Ecotopia; the Photography Triennial (International Center of Photography, New York). In recent years he has shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT), and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), among many other venues.

David Maisel was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2018. He 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 served as a Trustee of the Headlands Center for the Arts since 2011. He has been the recipient of an Individual Artist’s Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Investing in Artists Grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation. Maisel has been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Award and the Alpert Award in the Visual Arts. He received his BA from Princeton University, and his MFA from California College of the Arts, in addition to study at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. David Maisel was born in New York City in 1961.


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Selected Collections

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Canada
Bank of America, San Francisco, CA
Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, ME
Bowdoin College Art Museum, Brunswick, ME
Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, NY
Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
CU Boulder Museum of Art, CO
Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO
Fidelity Investments, Boston, MA
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, NY
General Mills, Minneapolis, MN
Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Harvard University Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA
Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, HI
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth University, Hanover, NH
Houston Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX
IBM Collection, New York, NY
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Mead Art Museum, Amherst College
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Microsoft Art Collection, Redmond, WA
Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, VT
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Miniature Museum of Contemporary Art, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA
Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL
National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO
Nevada Museum of Art, Reno NV
Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL
Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA
Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME
Princeton University Museum of Art, Princeton, NJ
Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA
San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
UBS Paine Webber Collection, New York,NY
University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, NM
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom
Worcester Museum of Art, Worcester, MA
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

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