Using X-Rays To Peer Inside Ancient Art Objects

Using X-Rays To Peer Inside Ancient Art Objects

Photographer David Maisel — widely known for his incredible aerial work, including a breath-taking project recently shot in Spain — has opened a new show in New York exploring the otherwise invisible insides of culturally important art objects. Called History’s Shadow, it is on display at the Yancey Richardson Gallery until 10 May 2014.

As Maisel describes it, the project “has as its source material x-rays of art objects that date from antiquity through just prior to the invention of photography. The x-rays have been culled from museum conservation archives, re-photographed and re-worked.”

The results are both eerie and meditative, the raw shock of a dream wed with the surprise that you are suddenly peering inside something, into the hollows, voids, or unseen internal structures that give it form.

And, when you do look inside, you see glitches, intrusions, mistakes, and the traces of pragmatic fixes.

Maisel continues, pointing out that the x-raying of objects has “historically been used for the structural examination of art and artifacts much as physicians examine bones and internal organs; it reveals losses, replacements, methods of construction, and internal trauma that may not be visible to the naked eye. The resulting prints of History’s Shadow make the invisible visible, and express through photographic means the shape-shifting nature of time itself, and the continuous presence of the past contained within us.”

Indeed, some of the most fascinating moments in the series are where the internal seams, clips, braces, and other fasteners become visible through the use of x-rays. These are the invisible marks of both creation and conservation, scars hidden from view yet formative of and fundamental to the object we see.

These are just a few examples from the show — which is well worth stopping by to see in person. It closes 10 May. [Yancey Richardson Gallery]

All photos courtesy David Maisel/Yancey Richardson Gallery; lead image was widened to account for Gizmodo’s formatting, but see the original on Maisel’s site