cam.era ob.scu.ra - a darkened enclosure in which images of outside objects are projected by their own natural light through a small opening and focused onto a facing surface.
Two years ago, I had the pleasure of mounting the first New York show devoted exclusively to Abelardo Morell’s Camera Obscura photographs. At that time Morell – who until then had only worked in black and white - was just beginning to experiment with color. Now he has completed his first full body of color work and the show opens at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery on Thursday. They were kind enough to send these images so that The Year in Pictures could provide an exclusive first look at this new work.
To date, Abelardo Morell has been making camera obscura pictures for 17 years, over which time he has been quietly building one of the great ongoing photography projects. At once pictorial and conceptual, these pictures address issues of science, art, topography, landscape, architecture and now color.
The initial idea for the work came out of Morell's demonstrations to his photography students at the Massachusetts College of Art in the mid-1980s where he turned his classroom into a Camera Obscura. The exercise was designed not only to elicit a sense of awe and wonder, but also to connect students to the precursive roots of the medium. It was not until 1991, however, that Morell decided to document the process on film, and he began by taking pictures in his own house in Brookline, Massachusetts. In order to capture the elusive projections, the exposures had to be about eight hours long, but the initial results charged Morell with possibilities. The play between the inside and outside world, the tension between the right way up and upside down, the surreal contrast of buildings and beds, trees and walls, formed a miraculous and original vision of a magical but still real world.
Over the ensuing years, while continuing to make photographs of a number of different subjects, from still lives of books to the backstage of the Metropolitan Opera, Morell has continued the Camera Obscura series venturing further and further afield to different cities and states and then to England, France, Italy, and Cuba. He has photographed in simple cottages and in some of the world's great museums, in the homes of the rich and in public libraries.
In this new series in addition to the advent of color, Morell has inverted the inversion, finding a way to flip the reflected light so that in these pictures the projected view of the outside world is now oriented correctly. Additionally, as is often his practice, Morell includes the beginnings of a new series playing with the relationship and contrast of painting and sculpture. For a fan of “Alice in Wonderland” which I know Morell is, the pictures just get curioser and curioser!