David Maisel started out studying architecture, but a chance encounter with a photobook vendor on the streets of New York changed the course of his career forever. His topographical images of landscapes going through violent environmental changes look abstract from a distance, and then once you get a little bit closer, the toll on the landscape is impossible to unsee. When he began taking aerial photographs from helicopters of open pit mining sites and extensive logging in the American West in the 1980s, many people, from the art world to the Environmental Protection Agency, were struggling with taking the rising threats to the environment seriously.
Now, Maisel's work feels more prescient and urgent than ever. On the heels of COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow that has been criticized for failing to produce tangible, effective promises to limit greenhouse gases, these photos are undeniable proof of how much irretrievable damage we have already done to the planet. Maisel's show at the Edwynn Houk Gallery runs through November 20.