Published by Safe-T-Gallery Inc.
Don Burmeister: Owner/Editor
Barbara Confino: Associate Editor
Continuing the legacy of Edward Weston, Minor White, and Frederick Sommer, Abelardo Morell has brought their lush romantic vision into a contemporary idiom.
Rock, Paper, Scissors, his new show at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery, proves him more than worthy to stand alongside his illustrious predecessors.
Using an elaborate tent set-up to project images onto the ground in order to photograph them, Morell essentially works around digital photography’s inability to do double exposure well, if at all. All the color work shown at Bonni Benrubi has something of interest to offer, with the most intriguing suggesting earth drawings on the order of the Nazca lines in Peru. All of them have a textural quality, both tactile and mysterious, which gives one the feeling of looking through a window on a particularly windy day. Along with their generally muted colors, they suggest old postcards and hand painted prints.
Nevertheless, I found his large black and white photograms possess the greatest suggestive as well as tactile power. A subordinate genre in photography, the photogram has antecedents that go back to Man Ray and Moholy Nagy, and even before, to Christian Schad. This camera-less photography combines a painterly hands-on approach with a unique photographic quality, granting it an immediacy and presence. Its rich tonalities and crisp edges work wonderfully well for Morell whose photograms benefit from this sharpness and detail, resulting in a satisfying mix of realism and abstraction.
Two pieces in the show, Triangle: Salt and Water on Film and Eclipse: Cut and Scratched Film, are particularly formidable essays in the genre, exuding an iconic quality mostly lacking in the large color work. This work is done in classic style, with 8 by 10 film. Especially effective is the use of water and salt as well as his practice of scratching the film directly.
Boasting a tactile luxuriousness generally banned from contemporary work, Abelardo Morell’s life work proves the enduring pleasure of the sensuous surface, giving it a special place in the current history of the medium.