Friday, April 25, 2014

Picturing the South -- Abelardo Morell at the High Museum

Up now, through May 18th, 2014, at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta is a photography show The Universe Next Door, featuring photographs by the Cuban-American photographer Abelardo Morell.

Thsi show constitutes a major retrospective of Morell's work, offering more than a hundred of Morell's photographs.

Included among them are the images Morell made in and around Atlanta as the latest photographer chosen by the High for its annual Picturing the South commission.

According to the High, Morell devoted his commission to two kinds of work that together create a kind of diptych of the Southern urban landscape.

Some of this work represents "trees – an iconic subject in the history of photography – in playfully unusual and imaginative ways" (see image below).

In addition to looking at trees of the Southern landscape, he has used a camera obscura to capture their urban counterpoint in several views of the Atlanta skyline (see image above).

The High established the practice of commissioning work for the Picturing the South project in 1996, asking established and emerging photographers to produce work inspired by the American South.

Past participants include Sally Mann, Dawoud Bey, Richard Misrach, Emmet Gowin, Alex Webb, Alec Soth, Martin Parr, Kael Alford, and Shane Lavalette, whose commissions have all been added to the High's permanent collection.

Long-time readers of this blog will remember that I have a complex relationship with the Picturing the South initiative at the High. I think the whole undertaking is fraught with issues.

Sometimes the work that comes in is profound, sometimes troubling (see Richard Misrach's work from two years ago), sometimes superficial. Sometimes it looks like the shooter flew into Atlanta, shot for a couple of days, then took the money and ran.

At least recently, the shooters engaged by the High have been Big Names from out of town. One remembers that there are many fine Southern photographers who have experience, vision, and technique, and who probably could use the work.

Time will tell how Morell's work stands up.

1 comment:

  1. Hi John, I agree with you on this one - again. I do think the High's vision with this project is too narrow - I wish they would think a bit 'outside the box' and involve southern photographers. Not necessarily exclusively - but creatively.