Abelardo Morell presents his latest “tent-camera photographs” at Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York this month. Each photograph places you in the literal footsteps of Monet and Van Gogh, revealing the ground on which these artists stood, combined with the view of what can be seen from that spot. Morell’s mind-boggling photographic technique produces a wondrous new way of seeing the world, and in the New Ground exhibition offers a fresh new perspective of these legendary artists.
Abelardo Morell’s images are not double-exposures. What you’re seeing is all happening within a single click of the camera without the use of a mechanical projector. His works are based on the principles of a camera obscura, in which light filters through a pinhole to “project” an image within a darkened room, much the way our own eyes work. But in Morell’s tent-camera photographs, he sets up a light-blocking tent at a specific location with a periscope at the top. The image of the real landscape outside bounces through periscope and is redirected to the ground within the dark tent, overlaying the view from outside over the spot from which it is seen – all in real time. To capture the final image, a digital camera is mounted inside the tent, controlled remotely via a computer by Morell. A great video of that process is at the end of this article.
That light, falling over textured ground, has the added effect of abstracting each image with a real-life impressionist effect. It’s as if the earth itself has added expressive brushstrokes to each view. For example, an image of a tree in Monet’s garden is broken up into thousands of brushstroke-like pixels as a result of the rocky path. In another, weeds and fallen stems add a painterly sharpness to a distant field of red poppies. Morell is clearly intentional and poetic in this dance between image and earth, often selecting a time of day where trees are in silhouette or the sky is clear, to accentuate those moments of pure texture.
Stand as far back as you can, and then get extremely close. These images shift your attention and offer new discoveries from every distance. Each image stands alone as a near multi-sensory experience, as if we can feel the air and hear the crunch of gravel, all while re-invigorating the reality of art historical icons. Abelardo Morell: New Ground: In the Terrain of Van Gogh and Monet is on view at Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York, through December 9, 2023.
Above, Abelardo Morell with his assistant Max LaBelle, making his signature tent-camera artworks. Video made by and courtesy Dante Baies.
What: Abelardo Morell: New Ground: In the Terrain of Van Gogh and Monet
Where: Edwynn Houk Gallery, 745 Fifth Avenue, 4th Floor
When: October 19 – December 9, 2023
All images courtesy Abelardo Morell and Edwynn Hock Gallery, New York.