Italy obscura: Photographer Abelardo Morell opens the mind’s eye

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Abelardo Morell, “View of the Landscape Outside Florence”, 2010, Archive Pigment Print. Artist image provided

It may sound confusing, but it’s a better expression of a tapestry of consciousness, where threads of memory and rumination are tied to external demands, rather than simple photographs. Even reversals occur in our own skull when we see: the pupil projects an image upside down on the retina. The optic nerve immediately empowers them.

Morel, 73, who lives in Newton and exhibits around the world, was the first famous artist to create art from within the Camera Obscura. Always innovative photographers are fascinated by the process of photography, which is very similar to the visual process of turning reality into images and images into fuel for imagination.

The camera obscura was first recorded in China in the 5th century BC. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo used it to study perspective. In particular, painter David Hockney speculates that Vermeer traced images of the Camera Obscura to capture an innovative perspective on his paintings. Other painters such as Caravaggio and Ingress may have adopted this device as well.

Morel loves to draw and has played with the camera’s ability to draw on other works. He painted the negatives on the glass and added the paint to the photographs. Filming Italy, he uses art there to layer illusions on top of illusions.

In “Camera Obscura: Garden View on Folding Screen, Villa La Pietra, Florence, Italy”, the screens drawn in the gardens of the magnificent Renaissance Villa, New York University’s Italian campus, are flooded with images. The projected cypress hangs like a stalactite on the idyllic painting scene of a couple and their attendants walking past railings and statues, surrounded by pillars. It’s an echo chamber in the villa’s garden — a real suggestion outside, its projection and portrayal in one fierce mix.

Morel may invert the projected image using a prism. In “Camera Obscura: View of Villa Entrance in Blue Gallery, Villa la Pietra, Florence, Italy”, a long ribbon on a sunny road surrounded by trees is on the right side, and its protrusion is a doorway between two small spaces. Is climbing suddenly. Marble statue. It hits the horizon at the top of the doorway and exactly meets the lanes of the cityscape hanging above — today’s road extends to yesterday’s road.

Abelardo Morell, "Camera Obscura: Blue Gallery, Villa La Pietra, Florence, Italy," 2017, Archive Pigment Print.
Averard Morrell, “Camera Obscura: View of Villa Entrance in Blue Gallery, Villa La Pietra, Florence, Italy”, 2017, Archive Pigment Print. Artist image provided

The contrast in these pictures is as magnetic as the confluence. The old town is poured into the walls above the bed like the vivid dream of “Camera Obscura: View of Florence from Hotel Excelsior in Italy” and is full of modern equipment such as lamp switches and lamps. .. Near the center, the shadow of the chandelier is cast on the painting on the wall, reflecting the projected light. These final details make the photo delicious and complex, adding shadow and brilliance spectators to the mix of old and new, inside and outside.

Abelardo Morell, "Camera obscura: Hotel Excelsior, view of Florence from Italy," 2017, Archive Pigment Print.
Averard Morrell, “Camera Obscura: Hotel Excelsior, View of Florence from Italy”, 2017, Archive Pigment Print. Artist image provided

In 2010, Morel and his then assistant photographer CJ Heyliger designed a light-resistant tent and created a portable camera obscura equipped with a periscope to project external images onto the interior ground. This opened up new backgrounds such as grass, soil and concrete textures.

The mural here shows part of a photo of the tent “View of Florence from the Gardens of Bardini, Italy”. The brilliant cityscape with the Cathedral of Florence on the left is shining crisply on the earth with pebbles and leaves. At first glance, these textures simply roughen the image, suggesting paintings centuries ago. However, the large entanglement of twigs near the center confuses the illusion. It looks like broken glass, and what suddenly looks like an old canvas resembles a picture taken through a shattered lens.

The abundance of contradictory details in these photographs builds a world that cannot be understood as quickly as the optic nerve turns its eyes to the world. These contradictions reflect our own internal life and are full of projections, details, and layers that make little sense to anyone but us. Therefore, the “projection of Italy” is not limited to Morel’s Italy. It’s an intimate Italian dream of all viewers themselves.

Abelardo Morell: Italian projection

Fitchburg Museum, 185 Elm St., Fitchburg, until February 6th. 978-345-4207,

You can contact Cate McQuaid at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @cmcq..

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