Abelardo Morell
and the Camera Eye

January 26-March 25, 2001
Main and Octagonal Galleries



Lecture by Abelardo Morell
Thursday, March 1, 5:30 pm
Campbell Hall 153


First Friday Exhibition Reception
with the artist present
Friday, March 2, 5:30-7:30 pm
In the Museum


PRESS RELEASE: Photographer Abelardo Morell to Speak at U.Va. March 1
Abelardo Morell, a Cuban-born artist whose photographs transform everyday objects and occurrences into mesmerizing, almost magical images, will give a talk on his work at the University of Virginia on Thursday, March 1, in Campbell Hall, Room 153. The 5:30 p.m. talk is co-sponsored by the Bayly Art Museum and the McIntire Department of Art.

Morell will also be at the Museum's First Fridays reception on March 2, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. An exhibition of his work, Abelardo Morell and the Camera Eye, is on view through Sunday, March 25, at the Bayly.

Morell makes familiar subjects - ordinary domestic objects and interiors, illustrated books and maps, his children at play - extraordinary by revealing the optical phenomena at work. "Inspired in equal parts by the magical properties of scientific phenomena, the potential of poetry to transform the mundane, and the camera as an agent of vision and light, Abelardo Morell's photographs explore the workings of the everyday world," notes curator Diane Gaston in her catalog essay. "He approaches the medium as a philosopher might, constantly questioning and probing its inherent properties, seeking a more complete understanding of the camera's logic and mystery."

His approach to the medium is surprisingly traditional, achieving his effects through the camera's ability to record unusual perspectives, discrepancies of scale, reflections of light and shadow and the passage of time.

The exhibition, organized by the Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA) in San Diego, is the first major traveling exhibition to consider the full extent of the artist's work.



PRESS RELEASE: Abelardo Morell Exhibition Opens
On Friday, Jan. 26, 2001, the Bayly Art Museum of the University of Virginia will open a major exhibition of work by Abelardo Morell, the Cuban-born artist whose photographs transform everyday objects and occurrences into mesmerizing, almost magical images. Organized by the Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA) in San Diego, Abelardo Morell and the Camera Eye is the first major traveling exhibition to consider the full extent of the artist's work.

Born in Havana in 1948, Morell makes familiar subjects -- ordinary domestic objects and interiors, illustrated books and maps, his children at play -- extraordinary by revealing the optical phenomena at work.

The exhibition examines three areas of the artist's work:  "Domestic Objects and Optical Phenomena" begins with the birth in 1986 of Morell's son, Brady. Previously, Morell had worked as a black-and-white street photographer in the tradition of Robert Frank.  With his son, however, he began to explore the world from a child's perspective. This renewed curiosity led him to present domestic space from seemingly odd vantage points, noting discrepancies of scale and the faintly ominous lure of unfamiliar textures and materials. 

"Books, Maps and Paintings" began during Morell's tenure as an artist-in-residence at the Boston Athenaeum in 1994-95. Through his photographic interpretation, the familiar structure of the book is treated as a sumptuous physical object; he reveals the surfaces of leather bindings, the reflective quality of inks, the texture of papers.  The strange rift that occurs within images that are printed across two pages provides infinite possibilities for his lens. Similarly, he reworked the narratives of paintings in photographs he made at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, also in Boston.

"The Camera Obscura," Morell's most ambitious series to date, involves the optical effects of the "camera obscura," the Latin term for a dark chamber or room.  Morell actually creates a room-size camera by covering all windows and doors with dark plastic and making a single 3/8-inch opening to serve as an aperture. He then sets up his tripod and large-format camera, opens the shutter and leaves the room, allowing the inverted scene that is projected on the opposite wall to register on film over the course of a long exposure, which ranges from eight hours to two days.  Through these experimentations, Morell has recorded a range of public and private views, merging the space of the outside world with the intimacies of the interior realm.

Before coming to the Bayly, the exhibition traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Saint Louis Art Museum in addition to several other university art museums. It features 60 gelatin silver prints, on loan courtesy of the Bonni Benrubi Gallery of New York, and is accompanied by a 60-page soft-cover catalog, including 30 duotones and an essay by former MoPA curator Diana Gaston.

The exhibition and tour are supported in part by generous grants from the Andy Warhol  Foundation for the Visual Arts, Lawrence S. Coben, the Corky and Carl Foundation, the H. Kenneth Branson Family Fund, the San Diego Foundation Barbara Freeman Fund, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Its presentation at the Bayly Art Museum is made possible with support from the University's Arts Enhancement Fund and Arts$.

Morell received his BA from Bowdoin College, and an M.F.A. from Yale University School of Art.  He is represented by Benrubi Gallery in New York. His solo exhibitions include the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, and his work has been featured in group exhibitions at the DeCordova Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, among others.  He is professor of photography at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.



EXHIBITION ANNOUNCEMENT:
Abelardo Morell explores the most fundamental principles of photography and human vision. His subjects are familiar -- ordinary domestic objects and interiors, illustrated books and maps, a child's toys -- and yet his photographs reveal the extraordinary optical phenomena at work on the surface of the common-place. His approach to the medium is surprisingly traditional, achieving his wondrous effects through the camera's ability to record unusual perspectives, discrepancies of scale, reflections of light and shadow, and the passage of time.

The exhibition presents three major interrelated series that Morell has made over the last decade: Domestic Objects and Optical Phenomena, The Camera Obscura, and Books, Maps and Paintings. The photographs in the first section view the domestic environment from a child's perspective, looking at mundane objects with a heightened curiosity. Through the photographer's unusual vantage points and often exaggerated use of scale, once familiar objects achieve new significance, like the wet footprints on the bathroom floor or the refrigerator covered with magnets. The central section of the exhibition, The Camera Obscura, represents his most ambitious series to date. Morell's work with the optical device is quite unprecedented. Taking his cue from the Latin meaning of the term "camera obscura," which literally translates as dark room or chamber, Morell creates a room-size camera for each image. After darkening the room except for one 3/8 inch opening at a window, he sets up a large format camera, opens the shutter and leaves the room. Over the course of several hours the inverted scene that is projected onto the wall opposite the opening is registered on film. In the final section of the exhibition the photographer's fascination with language and the sumptuous physical qualities of printed surfaces emerges in closeup shots of pages, whole books, and maps. Many of the images were made during the artist's residency at the Boston Athenaeum. Similarly he reworked the narrative of paintings in photographs he made at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. 

Abelardo Morell and the Camera Eye was organized by the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, in collaboration with the artist. The photographs are lent courtesy of Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York. The exhibition is supported in part by generous grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Lawrence S. Coben, the Corky and Carl Foundation, the H. Kenneth Branson Family Fund, the San Diego Foundation Barbara Freeman Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. Its presentation at the Bayly Art Museum is supported in part by the University's Arts Enhancement Funds. The artist's visit is co-sponsored with the McIntire Department of Art.



Photo Credit: 
Abelardo Morell, American, born 1948
Footprints, 1987
Gelatin silver print, 24 x 20"
© Abelardo Morell Courtesy the artist
and Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York


Contact: Suzanne Foley, Curator
804/924-3592  Fax: 804/924-6321