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The layered images of Phillip Maisel

The layered images of Phillip Maisel

I came across the photographic works of Phillip Maisel through Little Paper Planes, a gallery and shop located in San Francisco, CA currently showing Maisel's work. The artist had a number of great installation shots on his blog and I found myself wishing I could be in San Francisco at the moment (as I always do -- when do I not want to be in SF?) so that I could see these in person. After reading the interview on the LPP blog, I certainly intend to keep apace with his work as it continues to move forward.

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Maisel uses the medium of photography to toe the line of sculpture as image, and photograph as object. His latest prints are series of movements, numbered sequentially, in which layers of thin material are stacked or leaned against another surface. The prints progressively change in stages with the layers of the composition being shifted, curled or peeled away. One can almost imagine a stop-motion video of the changes in the sculptural object as Maisel rearranges, adds or removes pieces.

Maisel's works come together by a process of intuitively constructing layered compositions and then photographing them as he alters and transforms them. He experiments with flat materials such as thin board, plastics and card of in a variety textures, sizes, and hues. The juxtaposition of metallic, transparent, patterned and colored materials aren't trying to make the viewer forget that one is looking at a photograph. They aren't optical illusions, but the boundary between 2-D and 3-D are certainly blurred a bit. If you stand far enough away, or switch your view-mode (that's a thing, right?) into interpreting the images as two-dimensional, they become ultimately quite flat and abstract. Maisel's use of contrasting colors and shapes, in addition to the overall lighting and lack of shadows flatten out on the surface.

However he does provoke us to consider the relationship between the sculptural object and the image. Is it an image of a sculpture, or could we still call it a sculpture? And yet the photographic medium allows Maisel to document the stages of the process. They are far from static, and we are able to imagine being able to move the materials around ourselves, collaging them together and stepping back to take a picture, sort of like arranging a bunch of friends in a group to snap photos at a gathering.

Phillip Maisel earned his MFA from California College of the Arts in 2013 and he lives and works in San Francisco. His website, phillipmaisel.com has some fantastic images, and his blog is well worth keeping up with for updates on projects and exhibitions. All images in this post are via the artist's website and blog.

St. Francis Elevator Ride

St. Francis Elevator Ride

From above: Nigel Cox

From above: Nigel Cox

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