Cuban-born American artist Abelardo Morell has become internationally renowned over the past 25 years for employing the language of photography to explore visual surprise and wonder. In “Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door,” the High Museum of Art will present the first major retrospective of Morell’s photography in 15 years. The High’s exhibition, on view until May 18, 2014, will include new works by Morell that the Museum commissioned in 2013 for its ongoing “Picturing the South” series, which asks noted photographers to turn their lenses toward the American South.
Organized by The Art Institute of Chicago, in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the High Museum of Art, “Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door” showcases more than 100 works created from 1986 to the present, including 11 prints from the High’s permanent collection. Showing a range of series from the artist’s career—including many newer color photographs never before exhibited—the exhibition demonstrates how Morell utilizes photography’s earliest techniques and the power of artistic perspective to reveal the contemporary world in fresh, inventive ways.
The exhibition highlights Morell’s innovative and celebrated use of camera obscura – a technique that allows him to transform entire rooms into giant cameras and record mesmerizing scenes from the outside world projected onto interior environments. Also featured in the exhibition are his pioneering explorations with a custom-made tent camera and his series of works based on the classic fantasy novel “Alice in Wonderland.”
To complement the works in the show that span his career, the High will unveil the images Morell created for his “Picturing the South” commission in an adjacent gallery. For the commission, Morell focused on representing trees—an iconic subject that has captivated artists throughout the history of photography—in playfully unusual and imaginative ways. In addition to trees of the Southern landscape, he has employed a camera obscura to capture their urban counterpoint in select views of the Atlanta skyline.
Morell began traveling through Southern states in the summer of 2013 and will complete the series by early 2014 for inclusion in the exhibition. More information about the results of the commission will be released in the coming months. Morell joins past participants in “Picturing the South” including Sally Mann, Dawoud Bey, Richard Misrach, Emmet Gowin, Alex Webb and Alec Soth.
“Morell approaches photography with remarkable wit and creativity. In the age of digital photography, it’s refreshing to see how his work returns to the principles of optics and perspective to offer revelations for the viewer,” said Brett Abbott, curator of photography at the High. “The opportunity to present a retrospective of his career and at the same time celebrate the creative potential of our region with his new work is a great honor for the High.”
Key works in the exhibition will include:
- “Camera Obscura: Manhattan View Looking South in Large Room,” 1996
- “Camera Obscura: Santa Maria della Salute in Palazzo Bedroom, Venice, Italy,” 2006
- “Down the Rabbit Hole” (From “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”), 1998
- “Camera Obscura: View of Midtown Atlanta Looking South In Conference Room,” 2013
- “Camera Obscura: View of Atlanta Looking South Down Peachtree Street in Hotel Room,” 2013
- “Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming,” 2011
- “Paper-Self,” 2012 (a portrait of the artist’s profile as delineated by a stack of paper)
“Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door” is accompanied by a 176-page catalogue with 40 color and 100 duotone illustrations. The catalogue includes an illustrated chronology of Morell’s life and works by Abbott, as well as an essay by Elizabeth Siegel (The Art Institute of Chicago associate curator, department of photography) and an interview with the artist conducted by Paul Martineau (associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles).