IMAGES ON THE GROUND
I have always loved The 19th Century photographs of the American West by
Carleton Watkins, Timothy O’Sullivan and William Henry Jackson but, when I had a commission to photograph
these landscapes anew, the work of these men daunted me—so much so that, for a long time, I couldn’t imagine
how I would approach making landscape images myself. But like many immigrants, I felt moved to explore the
vastness of my adopted country. To picture America’s national parks, I invented a device—part tent, part
periscope—to show how the immediacy of the ground we walk on enhances our understanding of the panorama, the
larger world it helps to form. I wanted to find a way to make these well-known views of familiar and iconic
places into my own private discoveries.
Jamie M. Allen of the George Eastman Museum describes what I do with my tent-camera better than I can in his
book Picturing America’s National Parks (2016): “the resulting photographs are a mix of image and texture.
The image is that of a common scenic view; the texture, however, is derived from the land itself, the very
spot where one stands to experience the scenery. The ground cover – dirt, tocks, grass and sand – typically
lies at the onlooker’s feet, ignored in favor of the vista. Morell, conversely, ties the ground to the
scenic view, transforming the geology of the landscape into his canvas”.
The fourth century poet, Lu Chi, wrote: “We enclose boundless space in a square foot of paper”. I know he
was defining the task of the poet but, to me, his words shape my own ambition as a photographer.
Abelardo Morell was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948. He immigrated to
the United States with his parents in 1962. Morell received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College
and his MFA from The Yale University School of Art. He has received an honorary degree from Bowdoin College
in 1997 and from Lesley University in 2014.
His publications include a photographic illustration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1998) by Dutton
Children’s Books, A Camera in a Room(1995) by Smithsonian Press, A Book of Books (2002) and Camera Obscura
(2004) by Bulfinch Press and Abelardo Morell (2005), published by Phaidon Press. The Universe Next Door
(2013), published by The Art Institute of Chicago. His newest body of work Flowers for Lisa will be
published by Abrams in the Fall of 2018
He has received a number of awards and grants, which include a Guggenheim fellowship in 1994 and an Infinity
Award in Art from ICP in 2011. In November 2017, he will receive a Lucie Award for an achievement in fine
His work has been collected and shown in many galleries, institutions and museums, including the Museum of
Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, The Chicago Art
Institute, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Houston Museum of Art, The Boston Museum of Fine Art,
The Victoria & Albert Museum and over seventy other museums in the United States and abroad. A retrospective
of his work organized jointly by the Art Institute of Chicago, The Getty in Los Angeles and The High Museum
in Atlanta closed in May 2014 after a year of travel. He has an upcoming show at Rose Gallery in Santa
Monica, CA featuring his series After Constable on view October 28, 2017 – January 6, 2018.