Michael Light: Great Basin Autoglyphs and Pleistoseas


In his eighth solo exhibition at Hosfelt Gallery, Michael Light presents a new body of work from his ongoing aerial photographic survey of the arid American West. Great Basin Autoglyphs and Pleistoseas ventures into deep time, moving from habited, placed settlements into pure space and its attendant emptiness. The resulting images are abstract and painterly investigations that reveal hitherto unseen terrain imprinted by both human intervention and geological phenomena.


Twelve thousand years ago the Great Basin—that part of the country between California and Utah where water does not drain to the ocean—was 900 feet underwater, covered by two vast and now largely evaporated historical lakes, Bonneville and Lahontan. The remnants of Lake Bonneville today are the Great Salt Lake in Utah and its eponymous salt flats, while the most famous portion of the former Lake Lahontan is the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, an alkali bed that floods and dries each year, creating the flattest land on earth. It is also the location of the annual arts festival Burning Man.


The topographies now exposed by both Pleistocene lakes are the entry points for Light as he continues to pursue themes of mapping, perceptual orientation, geology, and human impact on the land, but here in a more minimal and psychological way. Piloting his 600-pound aircraft at low elevations, he uses a large-format digital camera to capture the vast flatness of the former lakebeds, while back in the studio he applies a hyper-intensification process not unlike X-ray imaging or gravestone rubbing that results in the revelation of impressions, spaces and textures that are indiscernible to the naked eye. While Light has always pushed the boundaries of landscape photography, his approach with this body of work takes a deeper turn into graphic and emotional abstraction.


Michael Light (b. 1963) is a Bay Area photographer, bookmaker, and pilot whose focus is the environment and how contemporary American culture relates to it. Light has exhibited globally and his work is in numerous museum collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Jose Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, Brooklyn Art Museum, and the Victoria & Albert, London. His series FULL MOON is permanently displayed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Installation Views