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These Stunning Aerial Landscapes Look Like Abstract Maps

The lens meets the brush in a new photography exhibit at Haines Gallery.


The Fall (Borox 6), 2013

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The Fall (Vicalvaro 3), 2013

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The Fall (Borox 2), 2013

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The Fall (Fuensalida 3), 2013

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San Francisco–based photographer David Maisel credits a pair of Bay Area institutions for his otherworldly landscapes of Spain: the de Young Museum and Google. Let us explain. Three years ago, Maisel and 11 other photographers were commissioned to create works for the 2013 ToledoContemporánea, an exhibit reflecting the city of Toledo, Spain.

Prior to heading for Spain, Maisel studied the region at large—reading books, yes, but also using Google Earth to get a bird’s-eye view. “I started to look at different zones that I thought might be promising,” he says. He discovered the Borox region, in the province of Toledo, where borax in the soil gives the land a metallic sheen; the Vicálvaro, a deserted development outside Madrid that was abandoned after the financial collapse of 2008; and the crosshatched croplands of the La Mancha region, to the south.

Maisel also took time to visit the de Young to see its Diebenkorn retrospective and soak up the artist’s aesthetic. “Diebenkorn was actually a cartographer during World War II,” Maisel says. “His palette gives a beautiful pinkish quality to things.” Diebenkorn’s vision rubbed off on Maisel: It takes a few minutes of gazing at the Toledo images to realize that they’re photographs and not paintings.

The exhibit is on view at Haines Gallery from January 7 to February 27. 

Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco

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