The exhibition at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery features the most recent additions to Morell’s celebrated series of camera obscura works. Using this centuries old optical principle in combination with digital camera work, Morell blacks out windows in rooms while leaving a small hole open, the aperture, which, in effect, transforms the space into a camera, thus overlaying the world outside inside.
In his most recent series of work from Florence, Rome, Venice and New York, Morell’s consistent obsession with the passage of time, becomes evident as never before. His use of traditional techniques transforms the familiar into unique contemporary perspectives. As we watch, a view of Volta del Canal in Venice is projected like a layer of vague memory or a passing hallucination on the interior of a Palazzo room painted with a jungle motif. In the same fashion, Morell revisits the iconic image of Times Square, first published by the New York Times over a decade ago, in relationship to a nearby hotel room. Remade in color the marquees are changed for a new millennium, just as the blinding speed of Morell’s digital capture adjusts our perception of place and time. Thus he makes the shabby interior of the hotel, serve not so much as a marker in the passage of time, but rather as a witness to the permanent iconic nature of these cities.
Abelardo Morell moved with his family from Cuba to New York City at age 14. He was introduced to photography at Bowdoin College in Maine, and used the camera to express his feelings about being an immigrant. As a student, Morell was deeply influenced by Robert Frank. He spent the early part of his career working in New York City and Miami as a street photographer. Morell graduated with an M.F.A. from Yale in 1981. In 1983, he began teaching at the Massachussetts College of Art in Boston. When Morell’s son was born in 1986, his photography changed radically. He began to produce photographs of domestic objects seen from a child’s perspective.
While on sabbatical in 1991, and inspired by his own classroom demonstrations, Morell began to use the camera obscura. His photographs of camera obscura images made in darkened rooms are well-known. Morell has done several photographic projects around books. His 2002 book A Book of Books is a striking collection of close-up photographs of books.