23.3 – 15.4 2016
Abelardo Morell:Through The Looking Glass
23.03 – 15.04.2016
Renowned for his appropriation of defunct photographic processes, Abelardo Morell is one of the most innovative photographers working today. Producing images that connect the antique beginnings of photography to the modern environment, Morell uses a variety of unusual methods – tintypes, glass negatives, wet plate collodian, cyanotypes, cliché verre and, most famously, the camera obscura.
Translated from Latin as ‘dark chamber,’ the camera obscura is an ancient concept described by Aristotle and drawn by Leonardo da Vinci. It involves the projection of an image onto the interior of a darkened box. Morell has gained fame and prestige for creating life-size camera obscuras to produce otherworldly, oneiric photographs. The exhibition shows a cross-section of works from Morell’s celebrated career, including many of the Camera Obscura series.
As well his Camera Obscura series, works from Morell’s Tent Camera project will be on display. During a visit to Big Bend National Park, Morell became interested in the desert floor and sought a method to project the surrounding desert onto it. A prefab dome tent with a periscope inserted in the roof allowed him to make images of a semi-abstract appearance that combine urban and rural scenes with the visceral nature of their surroundings.
B. Cuba 1948
Morell has rejected the technology at the fingertips of photographers and taken instead to what he refers to as the ‘natural’ method, prohibiting composite Photoshop images that have spread beyond advertising and become de rigour in the heady world of fine art photography. Unlike his contemporaries, Diane Arbus and Helen Levitt, who continued in the American documentary tradition, Morell started turning his lens to the subject of the camera itself, and the medium of photography. This resulted in his break through photograph in 1991, Light Bulb which explains how a photograph is made. Using a Camera Obscura technique, Morell produced black and white images of interiors that reflect a view of their outdoor surroundings. Allowing a small ray of light to shine into the unlit room from outside, he then captures the reflection on his large-format camera, often exposing the film for up to 8 hours. From the interior spaces of his own home, he went on to create many more Camera Obscura images in rooms all over the world. Carrying heavy equipment up mountains, into deserts and onto New York rooftops, he has travelled the world to photograph famous landmarks with a piquant curiosity. The Eiffel Tower, San Marco Square, the Manhattan Bridge and Yosemite are all immediately familiar and yet eerily altered.
Morell has used tintypes, glass negatives, wet plate collodian, cyanotypes and cliché verre all rejuvenating out-dated techniques to force us to look from unseen perspectives and to marvel in the mundane. ‘I love the period of the invention of photography,’ he says. ‘Especially the work of Fox Talbot. The idea that photography grew as the product of optics, chemistry, philosophy and curiosity has been an inspiration to me in my work with the camera obscura, tent-camera, photograms and cliché verre pictures. I don’t want to be those inventors but I want to drink from where they drank. I’m ultimately interested in making contemporary works but as something reworked from the past.’
Morell has received the Infinity Award from the International Centre of Photography in New York in 2011. He is also a professor of art at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. His work has been exhibited in some of the most renowned galleries and museums in the world, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.