David Maisel: Un/Earthed & David Nash: Wildwood
Haines GalleryThrough Jan 6th
Haines Gallery presents David Maisel: Un/Earthed and David Nash: Wildwood at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture (FMCAC). Maisel creates powerful photographs of sites transformed by human intervention. At once mesmerizing and disquieting, his thoughtfully composed aerial images consider the aesthetics, politics, and environmental impact of these radically altered landscapes. Nash has developed a body of work that includes sculptures, installations, and works on paper, each exploring the nature of place and our relationship to the larger landscape.
David Maisel: Un/Earthed and David Nash: Wildwood are on view at the Haines Gallery in Building C from November 3, 2023 through January 6, 2024, Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The opening reception takes place on Friday, November 3, 2023, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
For more than 30 years, David Maisel has created powerful photographs of sites transformed by human intervention. At once mesmerizing and disquieting, his thoughtfully composed aerial images consider the aesthetics, politics, and environmental impact of these radically altered landscapes.
Un/Earthed brings together a survey of Maisel’s aerial works from various series created between 1989 and 2018. “The Mining Project” (1989), “The Lake Project” (2001-15), and “Terminal Mirage” (2003-05) chronicle the effects of mining, industrial pollution, water diversion projects, and desertification across the American West, from open pit mines in Arizona and Montana to the depletion of Owens Lake in California and Utah’s Great Salt Lake. “The Fall” (2013) depicts zones of industry and agriculture in Spain, while his most recent series, “Desolation Desert” (2018), created with support from a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, focuses on the massive copper and lithium mining operations in Chile’s Atacama Desert. This sensitive eco-region is being transformed at an unparalleled pace and scale, reflecting a shift in the burden of energy production onto landscapes in the southern hemisphere.
In Maisel’s images, we find a strange, discomfiting beauty born of environmental degradation. Giving detailed but open-ended information, Maisel’s works operate on a metaphorical level as much as a documentary one. Lush, saturated colors belie sites of ecological damage: painterly washes of industrial waste and toxic algae blooms, the jewel-toned grids of lithium evaporation ponds. Graphic marks emerge from man-made trauma on land that has been carved, scarred, and drained.
The exhibition’s title, Un/Earthed, suggests both the extractive industries behind these changes as well as the process of discovery made possible through Maisel’s photographs. Witnessed from an aerial perspective, the landscape is abstracted and disorienting, a reflection of the physical transformations brought about by human efforts. The terrain here is an alien one, the Earth made unearthly by our own presence.
For more than 50 years, David Nash has developed a body of work that includes sculptures, installations, and works on paper, each exploring the nature of place and our relationship to the larger landscape. Wildwood includes a selection of standing and wall-hung sculptures of carved and charred wood, created from fallen beech, oak, and redwood trees. Working with industrial tools such as the chainsaw, ax, and blowtorch, Nash teases out the inherent form and behavior of unseasoned wood, allowing its natural qualities to inform the final shape of his works. At the center of the exhibition is “Three Red Sheaves” (2013), an elegant sculpture comprising three slender redwood columns, measuring more than nine feet tall and each created from a single piece of wood, which the artist has masterfully carved into an accordion fold of peaks. The work at once recalls organ pipes, the fluted columns of Classical architecture, and towering redwood trunks, while invoking the awe-inspiring experience of standing before such ancient growth.
Nash’s sculptures are complemented by “Five Charred Sculptures” (2009), a work on paper that references signature shapes that appear throughout his practice — mounds, columns, totems, pyramids — while highlighting his use of fire as both an aesthetic tool and as symbol of metamorphosis. Fire destroys, but in nature, it can also create the necessary conditions for growth and regeneration. Within an intimate exhibition space, Wildwood provides an opportunity for viewers to contemplate natural forms and phenomena, and reminds us of the beauty and elegance found in the outdoor environment.
About The Artists
David Maisel (b. 1961, New York; lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA) photographs, multimedia projects, and public installations have been exhibited at and collected by institutions including the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA; Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY; Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, CA; Denver Art Museum, CO; George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Oakland Museum of California, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; San Jose Museum of Art, CA; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; and ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany. Maisel was a Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute, and Artist in Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Maisel has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), an Investing in Artists Grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation (2011), and a National Endowment for the Arts’ Individual Artist’s Grant (1990). His work has been the subject of numerous monographs including Proving Ground (2020, Radius Books) and Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime (2013, Steidl).
David Nash’s (b. 1945, lives and works in Wales) work is held by leading institutions internationally, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, UK; San Jose Museum of Art, CA; Stedelijk Museum, Alst, Belgium, Tate Gallery, London, UK; Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield UK. He has been the subject of two recent career retrospectives: David Nash: Full Circle at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2022) and David Nash: Sculpture through the Seasons at the National Museum of Wales (2019). In 2004, Nash was awarded an Order of the British Empire for Services for Arts.