Through the eye of his camera, Abelardo Morell explores with the ways in which we perceive our everyday world. His pictures magically transform the familiar, forcing us to look at objects of daily life from new and surprising points of view. Morell started taking pictures that explore reality and illusion in the late 1980s, using a straightforward camera technique to achieve the sense of wonder that characterizes his work. His first photographs focused on viewing the world from a child’s height and perspective: in one, a stack of toy blocks looms like a skyscraper; in another, an empty paper grocery bag looks bottomlessly deep (both photographs are on view in this exhibition).
Morell’s best-known photographs, however, are those in which the outside world is projected upside down against the wall of a room. For these pictures, the artist used a camera obscura (Latin for “dark chamber”), a device that goes back to Leonardo da Vinci and possibly even Aristotle: if a box or room is completely light-tight except for a small hole in one side, the image of the world just outside will pass through the hole and appear inverted on the box’s or room’s far side. Morell has made room-size camera obscuras in which he places his four-by-five-inch view camera, taking surreal, playful, long-exposure photographs of the outside world projected upside down, transparently overlaying everything in the space.
This retrospective exhibition presented the various themes that Morell has developed in his photographic work. In addition to his close-ups of household objects and of camera-obscura projections, Morell has made photographs of books, maps, and paintings in the Boston Athenaeum, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts that transform or animate these works of reference or art. Recently, he illustrated with great imagination a new edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published by Dutton’s Children’s Books. Several of these photographs were highlighted throughout the exhibition.
Born in Cuba, Morell came to New York City with his family at age fourteen. He attended Bowdoin College and received his M.F.A. from Yale University. He has been teaching at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston since 1983.
“Abelardo Morell and the Camera Eye” and the exhibition tour was supported in part by generous grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Lawrence Cohen, the Corky and Carl Foundation, the H. Kenneth Branson Family Fund and the Barbara Freeman Fund of the San Diego Foundation.