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Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door

by Elizabeth Siegel
Elizabeth Siegel’s Abelardo Morell: the Universe Next Door is a comprehensive commentary on Morell’s body of work and approaches to photography; it covers his personal life, his education, his introduction to photography, the themes and methods of his work, and a diverse collection of his influences including literature, language, painting, music, and architecture.
Siegel describes Morell’s camera obscura work as embodying a curiosity and willingness for experimentation that echoes that of the work of nineteenth-century proto-photographers. Additionally, Morell is said to recurrently entertain the basic, in his use of the most rudimentary photographic principles, and the ordinary, in making overlooked objects and settings his subjects.
The text considers Morell’s camera obscura images to reveal or generate a relationship between domestic and public, interior and exterior, familiar and unfamiliar, and presence and absence. Morell explores the complexity of images by using the intentionally arranged interior of the darkroom to frame and distort the view of the projected built environment. In this way, he challenges viewers of his work to confront the ‘constructedness’ of the photograph, to negotiate the opposing visual and conceptual effects in reading the photograph, and to engage with his unique image-making process that belies its two-dimensional presentation.
Elizabeth Siegel is a writer and the Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago. This text accompanied Abelardo Morell’s retrospective exhibition, The Universe Next Door, at the Art Institute in 2013.
Siegel, Elizabeth. Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013.
Review by Lindsay Mamchur
July 2019
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