JTF (just the facts): A total of 15 large scale photographs, framed in black and unmatted, and hung in the entry area, the main gallery space, and a smaller side room painted blue. All of the works are archival pigment ink prints, made in 2011 and 2012. The images are available in three sizes, with varying edition sizes depending on whether the works are in color or in black and white: 24×30 (in editions of 10 for color and 8 for black and white), 30×40 (in editions of 8 and 6), and 50×60 (in editions of 6 and 4). There are 2 works in the smallest size, 9 in the middle size, and 4 in the largest size on display. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: This show brings us up to date with Abelardo Morell’s most recent work, bringing together images from three distinctly separate photographic projects. In the past two years, Morell has clearly been busy: out on the road with his ingenious tent camera, in the studio making meticulous cut paper collages, and in the darkroom playing with water drop photograms.
While Morell has been working with his periscope tent camera for a few years now, I think the these textural landscapes continue to get better and better. I like the combined experience of the picture postcard views and the rougher reality of the physical location of the viewer: the iconic silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge is decorated with scrubby weeds, star-shaped dandelions and hard packed dirt, while the epic grandeur of the Grand Canyon is underlaid with a rock slab and loose scree. The two simultaneous views outward and downward are flattened together, with recognizable landmarks like Old Faithful and Yosemite Falls interrupted by rocky gravel, pine needles, and delicately strewn flower petals. It’s as though the images have been hand painted out of the ordinary, overlooked path around your feet; they’re “grounded” in more ways than one.
Back in the studio, Morell has been channeling Frederick Sommer and MC Escher, picking apart 18th century Piranesi etchings and creating complex collaged fantasies of buildings made of impossible colonnades and swirling vortices of prisons and architectural facades. His book plate constructions play with perspective and angle, twisting and clashing in crisp black and white. Morell’s photograms have a more Berenice Abbott scientific feel, with water droplets shaped into a perfect triangle and transformed into a starry landscape of tiny round bubble orbs. Human profiles make appearances in both projects, a negative space self portrait is pushed into a ream of white paper, while another face is gently arced in water bubbles.
What holds these three bodies of work together is an interest in both the edges of photographic texture and the underpinnings of process. Morell displays craftsmanlike control over his varied tools, seemingly at ease with any combination of image making methods. Overall, this show is strong evidence of an artist actively and successfully exploring multiple complementary approaches and thought patterns, rather than being satisfied with following just one.
Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows. The color works are $11000 each (24×30), $17000 each (30×40) or $24000 each (50×60); the black and white works are $5000 each (24×30), $9000 each (30×40) or $16000 each (50×60). Morell’s work has become more consistently available in the secondary markets in recent years, with prices at auction ranging between $2000 and $17000.