MONOGRAPHS BY ABELARDO MORELL
Flowers for Lisa: A Delirium of Photographic Invention
Photographs by Abelardo Morell, Conversation with Lawrence Weschler
Abrams, October, 2018
Best known for his surreal camera obscura pictures and luminous black-and-white photographs of books, photographer Abelardo Morell now turns his transformative lens to one of the most common of artistic subjects, the flower. The concept for Flowers for Lisa emerged when Morell gave his wife, Lisa, a photograph of flowers on her birthday. “Flowers are part of a long tradition of still life in art,” writes Morell. “Precisely because flowers are such a conventional subject, I felt a strong desire to describe them in new, inventive ways.” With nods to the work of Jan Brueghel, Édouard Manet, Georgia O’Keeffe, René Magritte, and others, Morell does just that; the images are as innovative as they are arresting.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2013
Over the past twenty-five years, Abelardo Morell (b. 1948) has earned international praise for his images that use the language of photography to explore visual surprise and wonder. Born in Havana, Cuba, Morell came to the United States as a teenager in 1962 and later studied photography, earning an MFA from Yale University. He gained attention for intimate, black-and-white pictures of domestic objects from a child’s point of view, inspired by the birth of his son in 1986, as well as images in which he turns a room into a giant camera obscura, projecting exterior views onto interior spaces; and photographs of books that revel in their sensory materiality.
In more recent years, he has turned to color, exploring the camera obscura with a painterly delight and innovating a tent camera that projects outdoor scenes onto a textured ground. Across his career, Morell has approached photography with remarkable wit and creativity, examining everyday objects with childlike curiosity. The first in-depth treatment in fifteen years, this handsome and important book examines Morell’s career to the present day, including his earlier works in black-and-white and never before published color photographs from the past decade. An essay by Elizabeth Siegel, along with a recent interview with the artist and an illustrated chronology of his life and works, offers a riveting portrait of this contemporary photographer and his ongoing artistic endeavors.
Phaidon Press, New York, 2005
A retrospective of Morell’s career: 105 photographs spanning 30 years. Photographs by Abelardo Morell. Introduction by Richard Woodward. TF Editores, Spain. Phaidon Press, London. English/Spanish/French Publication
“Abelardo Morell’s camera transforms the recesses of the world into something even more shadowy. The fact that what he finds in these shadows is quite ordinary — books, kids’ toys, a paper bag — makes the results magically disorienting and (as in the cover image of a vase perched on the edge of a table) precarious. This year, a fantastic selection of his work was published, “Abelardo Morell.” —Geoff Dyer, Favorite Books of 2005, L.A. Times
“There is no doubt he has been among the most protean and inventive photographers at work anywhere during the last 15 years. By himself practicing more than one photography, he has enriched the possibilities for his contemporaries, whatever their artistic faith … Morell thinks big by keeping his focus small. His eye can’t help being drawn to romantic decay, to the Laocoon-like contortions of bound pages damaged by flood or a box of shredded, worthless money. And yet he also sees how light on the gilded edges of a stack of library books suddenly transforms them into bars of gold. Alert to the vicissitudes of the physical that the camera lens is ideally suited to capture and magnify, but driven to express the metaphysical and transcendent — to venture into the realms of dreams and death — Morell has a mocking, adventurous spirit that shows no sign of being jaded by the remarkable strangeness of being here on earth.” —Richard Woodward, from the Introduction
Photographs by Abelardo Morell. Introduction by Luc Sante
Bulfinch Press, New York 2004
“The camera obscura seems little short of miraculous, even after the optical rationale has been explained… That Abelardo Morell was able to photograph the thing in action, in effect producing photographs of a photographic process, and that he has done so with such lapidar and transformative eloquence, is breathtaking.” -Luc Sante, from the Introduction.
Afterword by Abelardo Morell
Photographs by Abelardo Morell. Introduction by Nicholson Baker
Bulfinch Press, New York 2002
“At least in a figurative sense, this book…is a bibliophile’s dream. The 52 well-reproduced photographs are paeans to the materiality of bookness, as imagined from every possible tangent — books on shelves, books stacked in piles, book spines, book edges, book pages, open books, big books and small books. The notion of photographing books may sound adolescent, but Abelardo Morell has made a career of taking childlike ideas and rendering them in sophisticated, reflexive fashion. He doesn’t disappoint here. Whether the image is simple, like one that shows the spine of a book titled ‘Thought, 5, 1930–31,’ or complex, like ’ A Tale of Two Cities,’ in which Dickens’ famous beginning is blurred by type bleeding through from the reverse side of the page, Morell manages to make pictures seem symbolically rich as words. His photographs of illustrated books are especially dense and suggestive; the camera stares into the fold of adjacent pages, reflecting and refracting the printed pictures so that they become something else: new pictures.” —Andy Grundberg, The New York Times
“Abelardo Morell’s photographs are living proof that books are much more than carriers of information, that they are precious artifacts in their own right, with stories quite apart from their texts to tell. A dazzling performance, arriving, as it happens, in the nick of time. Nicely done.” —Nicholas A. Basbanes, author of A Gentle Madness and Patience & Fortitude
“In a superb display of talent, renowned photographer Morell provides a magical experience for the bibliophile and soothing engagement for photography enthusiasts. Morell transforms everyday objects-book spines, pages, illustrations, typeface, and shelves-into memorable conduits of our long connection with reading and the book. This invigorating work reaffirms the importance of books and serves as a reminder of their fragile but enduring presence in our history and psyche. Nicholson Baker, author of the controversial Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, contributes a fitting preface; an engaging and beautifully written piece, it reveals the writer’s sincere love for books. However, the stars of the volume are, undeniably, the books on which Morell focuses his camera. If they could talk, those books would thank him for rediscovering them and adding, through his genius, such grace and sentiment to the essence of their existence on the pages of yet another book” —Edward K. Owusu-Ansah, Library Journal
“Although we may have been taught not to judge a book by its cover, photographer Abelardo Morell reverses the old saying and delightfully shows us how to relish a book by its look. This inventive and clever photographic ode to the printed word captures all the powerful possibilities contained on the page. A Book of Books gives us images that range from formal studies of shape and texture to the joyously whimsical. Most luminous are the sculptural renditions, fluid pages curving over their spines like majestic mountains in the distance. The abstract pattern of a dictionary takes on the enigmatic characteristics of crop circles, while a water-damaged book shows itself as a twisted organic form. An aging book slowly decays in a stark image of paper so fragile it has practically turned to dust. Library stacks seen from above become a labyrinth through Morell’s lens. Includes a lovely preface by Nicholson Baker. Perfect for any book enthusiast.” —J.P. Cohen, Amazon.com
Photographs by Abelardo Morell. Essay by Diana Gaston
Museum of Photographic Arts, SanDiego, CA 1999
“Consistently throughout his work, Morell disrupts the boundaries of a fixed or permanent understanding of things. Like Lewis Caroll’s White Rabbit, Morell tests the malleability of the everyday world, presenting ordinary objects from absurd or unfamiliar vantage points … Like the photographer, who transforms his subjects through unexpected perspectives and mesmerizing description, the viewer becomes transfixed by the potential of the commonplace .” –Diana Gaston, Curator of the exhibition: Abelardo Morell and the Camera Eye
By Lewis Carroll. Photo-Illustrations by Abelardo Morell. Introduction by Leonard S. Marcus
Dutton Children’s Books, New York 1998
“For his illustrations, Abelardo Morell had the brilliant idea of making the book itself a character in the story. His photographs, at once eerie and full of wit, are beautifully realized.” —Peter Galassi, Chief Curator of Photography, Museum of Modern Art
“There is no end to the available editions of Alice, of course, but here is one worth having.” —Booklist
Photographs by Abelardo Morell. Essays by Charles Simic and Jennifer Gross
Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum 1998
“The astonishing aspect of Morell’s photographs is their ability to give this old world a new look. What is this he’s got here, we continually ask? Morell has found the way to domesticate the fantastic. In this photograph, it seems perfectly natural to find the reflection of sea waves on the ceiling of an attic. How delightful it must be to stretch in a bed with the upside-down image of the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan hovering over one’s head! Morell’s is a magic realist show. Nothing is quite what it appears to be. Mirage and reality perform side by side, providing new aesthetic experience for the viewer.” —Charles Simic
BOOKS FEATURINg work by ABELARDO MORELL
The Photographer in the Garden
by Jamie M. Allen & Sarah Anne McNear
This book explores our unique relationship with nature through the garden. From famous locations, such as Versailles, to the simplest home vegetable gardens, from worlds imagined by artists to vintage family snapshots, The Photographer in the Garden traces the garden’s rich history in photography and delights readers with spectacular photographs. The book explores gardens from many angles: the symbolism of plants and flowers, how humans cultivate the landscapes that surround them, the change of the seasons, and the gardener at work. An informative essay from curator Jamie M. Allen and picture-commentaries by Sarah Anne McNear broaden our understanding of photography and how it has been used to record the glory of the garden. The book features photographers from all eras, including Anna Atkins, Karl Blossfeldt, Eugène Atget, Edward Steichen, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, Robert Mapplethorpe, Nobuyoshi Araki, and Collier Schorr, to name a few. This sublime book brings together some of the most stunning photography in the history of the medium.
Art Can Help
by Robert Adams
Yale University Press, 2017
Distributed for the Yale University Art Gallery A collection of inspiring essays by the photographer Robert Adams, who advocates the meaningfulness of art in a disillusioned society In Art Can Help, the internationally acclaimed American photographer Robert Adams offers over two dozen meditations on the purpose of art and the responsibility of the artist. In particular, Adams advocates art that evokes beauty without irony or sentimentality, art that “encourages us to gratitude and engagement, and is of both personal and civic consequence.” Following an introduction, the book begins with two short essays on the works of the American painter Edward Hopper, an artist venerated by Adams. The rest of this compilation contains texts—more than half of which have never before been published—that contemplate one or two works by an individual artist. The pictures discussed are by noted photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Emmet Gowin, Dorothea Lange, Abelardo Morell, Edward Ranney, Judith Joy Ross, John Szarkowski, and Garry Winogrand. Several essays summon the words of literary figures, including Virginia Woolf and Czeslaw Milosz. Adams’s voice is at once intimate and accessible, and is imbued with the accumulated wisdom of a long career devoted to making and viewing art. This eloquent and moving book champions art that fights against disillusionment and despair.
The Miracle of Analogy: or The History of Photography, Part I
by Kaja Silverman
Stanford University Press, 2015
The Miracle of Analogy is the first of a two-volume reconceptualization of photography. It argues that photography originates in what is seen, rather than in the human eye or the camera lens, and that it is the world’s primary way of revealing itself to us. Neither an index, representation, nor copy, as conventional studies would have it, the photographic image is an analogy. This principle obtains at every level of its being: a photograph analogizes its referent, the negative from which it is generated, every other print that is struck from that negative, and all of its digital “offspring.”
Photography is also unstoppably developmental, both at the level of the individual image and of medium. The photograph moves through time, in search of other “kin,” some of which may be visual, but others of which may be literary, architectural, philosophical, or literary. Finally, photography develops with us, and in response to us. It assumes historically legible forms, but when we divest them of their saving power, as we always seem to do, it goes elsewhere.
The present volume focuses on the nineteenth century and some of its contemporary progeny. It begins with the camera obscura, which morphed into chemical photography and lives on in digital form, and ends with Walter Benjamin. Key figures discussed along the way include Nicéphore Niépce, Louis Daguerre, William Fox-Talbot, Jeff Wall, and Joan Fontcuberta.
by Joel Meyerowitz
Aimed at children between the ages of nine and twelve, Seeing Things is a wonderful introduction to photography that asks how photographers transform ordinary things into meaningful moments. In this book, acclaimed and beloved photographer Joel Meyerowitz takes readers on a journey through the power and magic of photography: its abilities to freeze time, tell a story, combine several layers into one frame, and record life’s fleeting and beautiful moments. The book features the work of masters such as William Eggleston, Mary Ellen Mark, Helen Levitt, and Walker Evans, among many others. Each picture is accompanied by a short commentary, encouraging readers to look closely and use their imagination to understand key ideas in photography such as light, gesture, composition—and, ultimately, how there is wonder all around us when viewed through the lens.
Picturing America’s National Parks
by Jamie M. Allen
George Eastman Museum/ Aperture, New York 2016
“The images in this book take us on [a] journey, from the first mammoth-view photographs of Yosemite to digital images shared through social media. They show us the intertwined histories of photography and America’s national parks. Without photography, our understanding of these inherently visual spaces would be limited to descriptive words and artists’ renderings. From its inception, photography has often been understood as truth, or pure documentation of the world. Through images of the national parks, photography can concurrently be understood as a filter that encourages our passion for these spaces and perpetuates their iconic status. Over the years, our views of the landscape have undoubtedly been shaped by those that came before. The vistas first captured by nineteenth-century explorers still influence people today who visit the parks to partake in the view themselves. Photography has created what we expect to see and compels us to capture your own memories last these sites. Our experience of the parks is so connected to photography that we cannot escape the feeling of being inside a photograph in some these iconic places…” —Jamie M. Allen
By Geoffrey Batchen
Prestel, New York, 2016
An unparalleled exploration of the art of cameraless photography, this expansive book offers an authoritative and lavishly illustrated history of photography made without a camera, along with a critical discussion of the practice. Since the early 19th century and the invention of photography, artists have been experimenting with various methods for creating photographs without a camera. At once exhaustive and compelling, this book reveals the myriad approaches artists have used to create photographic images using just paper and a source of radiation. Simultaneously a chronological history and a thematic study, this book explores a range of practices, some of which have been in use for more than a century, while others are entirely contemporary. From placing objects on light-sensitive paper and drawing on blackened glass plates to radiography, photocopying, and digital scanning, this is an elemental kind of photography that repudiates the idea that technology advances in only one direction. By eliminating the camera, artists are able to focus on other ways of making photographic pictures. They allow the world to leave its own imprint, to speak for itself as itself. This volume includes 160 exquisitely reproduced works of this kind. In turns abstract and realist, haunting and intricate, they seem to capture the very essence of their subjects. Featuring artists from the 19th century to today, this book explores cameraless photography as an important and influential medium that deserves to be included at the forefront of today’s conversations about contemporary art.
Published by the Fondacion Lazaro Galdiano and Sociedad Estatal de Conmemoraciones Culturales, 2013
“The halls of museums such as the Lazaro Galdiano are privileged places in which to enjoy the dialogue between times, creators and citizens. Its founder brought together in his collections exceptional pieces from very different periods, ranging from archaeology to his own contemporaries. In 2009 we celebrated the centennial of the creation of the building that houses these collections, holdings that are among the jewels of Spanish artistic and cultural heritage. The project Interior Gaze, organized by two institutions attached to the Ministry of Culture, the Lazaro Galdiano Foundation and the State Agency of Cultural Commemorations (SECC), reinforces this relationship between yesterday’s gaze, that of the collector, and today’s, that of five of the most outstanding contemporary international photographers. And it does so with that will for permanence so akin to the museum idea: through a publication that goes beyond the temporality of an exhibition”
—Introduction from the Ministry of Culture
Photographs by Abelardo Morell. Design by Ted Muehling. Introduction by Oliver Sacks.
Library Council, Museum of Modern Art. New York 2010
The Island of Rota unites the work of the photographer Abelardo Morell, the designer Ted Muehling, and the neurologist and wroter Olivers Sacks in a limited edition publication that considers the unique natural history of a particular island in Micronesia. Sack’s text is excerpted from his book The Island of the Colorblind, which takes its name from its study of a Micronesian island population that harbors an extreme form of color blindness–a handicap for which the islanders are compensated with a heightened perception of pattern, shadow, texture, and tone. While visiting this community, Sacks took a botanical side trip to the island of Rota, home to an astonishing array of ferns and cycads. Inspired by Sack’s observation on color blindness as well as by his description of the plant life of Rota, Morell and Muehling have created a tactile volume in black-and-white and sepia that reconceives the author’s text and responds to his sense of deep geological and botanical time. Morell has made thirteen cliché-verres, images made by hand in ink and plant matter on glass and then digitally printed as photographs. Twelve are bound into the book: the thirteenth is placed loose in the book’s box.
By Terry McCoy. Introduction by William Kennedy
Bulfinch Press, New York 2003
“As Kennedy explains, this collection of essays and photographs by Cubans, Cubans in exile and interested Americans isn’t so much about the politics of Cuba as ‘the consequence of politics to Cuba.’ While its structure is simple enough-short essays on themes like spirituality, the new middle class and rural life coupled with sets of photos, introduced by artists’ statements-its texture is delightfully varied and idiosyncratic… The kaleidoscope of images — Virginia Beahan’s breathtakingly empty landscapes, Sylvia Plachy’s vibrant urban scenes, Abelardo Morell’s haunting camera obscura projections of cityscapes on interiors-will open readers’ eyes to a country not so much ‘third world’ as ‘other world.’” —Publisher’s Weekly
Smithsonian “Photographers at Work” Series. Photographs by Abelardo Morell. Interview and Essay by Richard B. Woodward.
Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 1995
“Abelardo Morell has distinguished himself in the ‘90s as an artist of unique technical elegance and resourcefullness … Not only has he taken startling pictures unlike any others in the history of photography, but he has done so within the confines of a ‘straight’ aesthetic, without resorting to the stale tricks of surrealist collage or computerized postmodern manipulation.” —Richard Woodward