History's Shadow AB1, 2010 C-print frame: 41 x 31 inches / photo: 40 x 30 inches Ed. of 7

History's shadow

By David Maisel

David Maisel photographs the forgotten, the unseen, and the invisible. In 2006, he captured the unclaimed copper canisters containing the ashes of patients who died at a state-run psychiatric hospital, originally known as the Oregon State Insane Asylum, between 1883 and the 1970s. The result was Library of Dust, a gorgeous oversized book and exhibition. Then in 2008, Maisel collected a series of "Black Maps," huge aerial photographs of strip mines, lake beds, and other large features that aren't easily recognizable out of context but reveal curious and provocative patterns and topographies. His latest project is History's Shadow, an exploration of memory and excavation through x-rays of artifacts from San Francisco's Asian Art Museum. History's Shadow is on display at the Haines Gallery in San Francisco until June 4. Later this year, Nazraeli Press will publish the series as a monograph, including a short story by Jonathan Lethem. We are thrilled to present Maisel's ghostly images and his commentary on Boing Boing. — David Pescovitz

History's Shadow GM16, 2010 C-print frame: 31 x 41 inches / photo: 30 x 40 inches Ed. of 7

As a documentarian of sorts, my photographic projects present what might be considered technical, abstract images seen through a metaphoric eye. The ongoing themes of my work concern the dual processes of memory and excavation, as I examine what societies leave behind as artifacts and evidence of their cultures. In my current project, History's Shadow, I have utilized scientific images from art conservation archives to create new photographs. Specifically, in this series I have re-photographed x-rays depicting sculpture and artifacts from antiquity, scanning and digitally manipulating the selected source material.

History's Shadow AB2, 2010 C-print frame: 41 x 31 inches / photo: 40 x 30 inches Ed. of 7

Through the x-ray process, the artworks of origin become de-familiarized and de-contextualized, yet acutely alive and renewed. The ghostly images of these x-rays seem to surpass the power of the original objects of art.

History's Shadow GM12, 2010 Archival Pigment Prints Image: 40 x 30 inches / Frame: 41 x 31 inches Ed. of 7

These spectral renderings become transmissions from the distant past, conveying messages across time, and revealing the essential components that comprise these objects' core.

History's Shadow GM10, 2010 C-print frame: 41 x 31 inches / photo: 40 x 30 inches Ed. of 7

My x-ray-derived photographs fuse the temporal, the artistic and the scientific, permitting us to see into previously invisible realms. The shadow-worlds they occupy are informed by the black space surrounding the images, which in some instances becomes a vast nether world, and in others becomes the velvety ground of some kind of brain scan/portrait.

History's Shadow GM3, 2010 C-print frame: 31 x 41 inches / photo: 30 x 40 inches Ed. of 7

I began this series while a Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute, and have continued it by working with material from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. I plan to develop this series over time, by collaborating with museums around the world whose holdings reflect the past of a broad range of cultures.

History's Shadow AV4, 2010 C-print frame: 41 x 31 inches / photo: 40 x 30 inches Ed. of 7

X-rays have historically been used for structural examination of art and artifacts, as they reveal losses, replacements, methods of construction, and internal trauma not visible to the naked eye.

History's Shadow AV3, 2010 C-print frame: 31 x 41 inches / photo: 30 x 40 inches Ed. of 7

By transcribing the inner and outer surfaces of their subjects simultaneously, these images form spectral images of indeterminate space, depth, and scale.

History's Shadow AB8a & AB8b, 2010 Archival Pigment Prints Image, each: 40 x 30 inches / Frame, each: 41 x 31 inches Ed. of 7

The more deeply we see inside objects from the distant past of human culture, the more fully these renderings transcend their documentary function, allowing us to glimpse the invisible.

History's Shadow GM20, 2010. C-print. frame: 31 x 41 inches / photo: 30 x 40 inches. Ed. of 7

Images courtesy of the artist and Haines Gallery