Feb. 23, 2001
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Photographer exposes unusual perspectives

"Down the Rabbit-hole, 1998 (from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland series)" by Abelardo Morell, whose work is on exhibit at the Bayly Art Museum.

Staff Report

Abelardo Morell, an artist whose photographs transform everyday objects and occurrences into mesmerizing, almost magical images, will visit U.Va. March 1 and 2, in conjunction with an exhibition of his work at the Bayly Art Museum.

He will give a talk on his work March 1 at 5:30 p.m. in Campbell Hall, room 153. Morell will also be at the museum's First Fridays reception on March 2, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

"Abelardo Morell and the Camera Eye" is on view through March 25 at the Bayly. His visit is co-sponsored by the museum and the McIntire Department of Art.

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.

His approach to the medium is surprisingly traditional: he achieves 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 examines three areas of the artist's work:

"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.

"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. Similarly, he reworked the narratives of paintings in photographs he made at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, also in Boston.

"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.

Morell received his B.A. from Bowdoin College and an M.F.A. from Yale University School of Art. He is professor of photography at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.

The exhibition, organized by the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, is the first major traveling exhibit to consider the full extent of the artist's work. 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. Its presentation at the Bayly is made possible with support from the University's Arts Enhancement Fund and Arts$.

Morell's 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.



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