From his site:
“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.”
His images appear related to the earlier work of Emmet Gowin, though more richly complex in color.
Maisel sees this body of work as a collection of “Black Maps”. As grim testaments to what we’ve done, they are uncomfortably beautiful. Strip mining, clear cutting, leaching fields, firestorms, and other devastations look like patchworks of unbelievable color separated by the brushlines of tiny vehicle tracks.
These images also remind me of the canvas meditations of Mark Rothko.
Maisel is inspired by the apocalyptic writings on the Great Salt Lake of Robert Smithson.
From Green Museum:
“Smithson wrote that “the sense of the earth as a map undergoing disruption leads the artist to the realization that nothing is certain or formal.” Maps, like photographs, are designed to offer an objective overview, a means to comprehend our location; they are both place and concept, figurative and abstract. But a map that is black, as the title of this work suggests, is a kind of negation. Black maps are indeed unknowable and unnamable; they are ciphers. Perhaps these are the only kinds of pictures, with their compelling ambiguities, with which we can mark the demise of these landscapes.”