21st Apr 2018
Abelardo Morell is celebrated for reinventing famous scenes through the gauze of his camera obscura views. On finding the scene that he wanted to capture, he then faced the task of finding a room with the view and a facilitating inhabitant who was willing to humour him during his eight-hour exposure times. The process was laborious, taking months of frustration and meticulous fine- tuning to perfect, but the results were often monumental. Classical principles of perspective and scale are uprooted as scenes of the world’s most recognizable monuments confront life on an intimate, domestic scale. The gargantuan skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan – surging symbols of commerce, wealth and the American Dream – intrude on the modest, wooden furniture of a sombre interior. The Eiffel Tower is projected down the wall of a bedroom in the dingy Hotel Frantour, with its pinnacle comically protruding across the rumpled bed sheets. Canaletto’s masterpiece of perspectival painting at the Piazzetta San Marco is reworked through the projection of the scene into an austere nearby office.
The owner of a large palazzo invited Morell to Venice in 2007 to capture the scenes from its windows. In one image the Santa Maria della Salute church takes on a hallucinatory presence inside the palazzo bedroom. The scaffolding surrounding the church’s dome only increases the decadence of the Baroque façade, the whole scene blending into the bedroom’s ornate wallpaper. The indistinguishable blur in mirror embodies one of the gilded Rococo the pervading themes of Morell’s work – the photograph as construct. Morell exposes the ‘truth’ invested in the photograph as faulty. Ripping up the smooth surface of the photograph, he compels us to reconsider the trust we place in the photograph as a mirror of exterior reality and to climb through the looking glass with him.