Best Museum Show

Abelardo Morell and the Camera Eye, St. Louis Art Museum

A good criteria for "best" is "that which is most remembered." The images created by photographer Abelardo Morell, which appeared at SLAM last spring, stay with the viewer. Gorgeously rendered black-and-white prints of otherwise undramatic objects -- maps, dictionaries -- have a quality most art lacks in this age of impermanence: the resiliency to maintain the integrity of the image through memory and time. Sure, a few months does not mean "lasting work," but Morell's perspective is unique, skewed, dreamlike, as in the dream that revisits the wakeful. A dictionary brought into sharp, detailed closeup; a crumpled map holding a small puddle of water; a bare light bulb illuminating an opulent painting: These all harbor a strange, intense beauty. Morell's uses of camera obscura, projecting into rooms the reflection of the exterior cityscapes, are less appealing, less exceptional. They're more about the process than the product -- an aesthetic fashion that's turned dowdy. More intriguing is the photographer's keen, intense observations and manipulations of the ordinary -- made extraordinary. The world is ready for its closeup, Mr. Morell.
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