Twenty years after the birth of photography, Charles Baudelaire called the medium an invention of the superficial, saying its emphasis on "exactitude" was a cheap substitute for the subtleties contained in painting, poetry, and other real art. David Maisel's photo exhibit History's Shadow rebuts this belief in dramatic fashion. Maisel investigates the passage of time through traditional art and modern photography. He started by going to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and San Francisco's Asian Art Museum, and combing through scores of X-rays already taken of prominent older holdings. (Museums take these images to document their collections and to record their condition.) Maisel then rephotographed the X-rays on light boxes in a darkened room, and in the printing, emphasized colors that, in conjunction with the images' stark backgrounds, give the depicted objects a new hypnotic glow. Like X-rays of humans, Maisel's photos show body parts, crevices and chasms that are normally hidden from everyday view. In the shoulders and elbows of a 17th-century Buddha, for example, we see a series of staples that seem to hold the statue in place. These interior joints become curious imperfections internal tattoos that merge with the outside layers to give the Buddha a more complete dimension. This feeling of "completeness," a feeling that we're seeing inside revered objects, is one reason Maisel's images are so startling.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: April 13. Continues through June 4, 2011