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High unveils Universe Next Door

Camera Obscura image: View of Atlanta Looking South Down Peachtree Street in Hotel Room credit Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948), Camera Obscura: View of Atlanta Looking South down Peachtree Street in Hotel Room, 2013, inkjet print. © Abelardo Morell

Camera Obscura image: View of Atlanta Looking South Down Peachtree Street in Hotel Room credit Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948), Camera Obscura: View of Atlanta Looking South down Peachtree Street in Hotel Room, 2013, inkjet print. © Abelardo Morell

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The “Picturing the South,” portion of the exhibition features a study of trees throughout Georgia and Tennessee (Photo by June Zachary).

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“The Universe Next Door” opens this weekend at the High Museum. (Photo by June Zachary).

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Photographer Abelardo Morell unveils “The Universe Next Door,” with the High Museum’s Curator of Photography Brett Abbott. (Staff Photo: Jim Zachary)

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Images included in the display demonstrate the artist’s ability to see unique angles and approaches to the most common of subjects, including stacks of money. (Photo by June Zachary).

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Tent-Camera Image on Ground: Rooftop View of The Brooklyn Bridge credit Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948), Tent-Camera Image On Ground: Rooftop View of The Brooklyn Bridge, 2010, inkjet print, 30 × 40 in. Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York. © Abelardo Morell

ATLANTA — For the next few weeks the universe will be just next door for Southern Crescent residents.

“Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door,” an internationally acclaimed photography exhibit will be on display at the High Museum in Atlanta beginning Feb. 23.

With McDonough Arts in Henry County, Arts Clayton in Jonesboro and Clayton State University showcasing both the performance and fine arts, the Southern Crescent boasts a strong arts community that will doubtlessly appreciate the upcoming exhibition that not only displays the artistry of Morell, but focuses the lens on the natural beauty of Georgia and Tennessee.

The exhibition of Morell’s unique work will be displayed alongside the High’s “Picturing the South” exhibit.

The High’s Curator of Photography Brett Abbott hosted a preview of the exhibits this week.

The works will be open to the public through May 18.

While the photography of the Cuban-born American artist has been heralded for more than 25 years, the High Museum said this is the first major showing of Morell’s work in 15 years.

Curators explained that by using what is called the camera obscura technique, Morell “transforms entire rooms into giant cameras and records mesmerizing scenes from the outside world projected onto interior environments.”

Morell talks about his photography with the enthusiasm of a child at play.

In fact, he explained that having children of his own helped him to become even more creative and imaginative with his photographic techniques.

“If you have children you know it is an excuse to play. You can be kids again. You can feel free to play and I used that in my photography,” he said.

He called his obscura technique a “magical experience,” explaining that it enable him to both see and portray the world in a new way.

Observing shadows and images projected on interior walls by the sunlight coming through a window, the artist began experimenting — or playing — by blacking out all the windows in a room then cutting a 3/4 inch hole in the plastic window covering to project the faint images on a way.

He then used very long camera exposures to capture those images on film, then later as digital images.

“‘The Universe Next Door’ demonstrates how Morell utilizes photography’s earliest techniques and the power of artistic perspective to reveal the contemporary world in fresh, inventive ways, ” a High Museum spokesperson said.

The display is made up of more than 100 works produced by Morell dating back to 1986.

States parks in Georgia and neighboring Tennessee are the centerpiece of his “Picturing the South,” images that focus on trees in what has been called “playfully unusual and imaginative ways.”

The exhibit also includes images of the Atlanta skyline Morell captured with the camera obscura technique.

In some ways the photographer is a throwback to early photographic artists who explored extensively with light, apertures and exposure times, while creatively looking at the world through a camera lens.

“Morell approaches photography with remarkable wit and creativity. In the age of digital photography, it’s refreshing to see how his work returns to the principles of optics and perspective to offer revelations for the viewer,” said Abbott. “The opportunity to present a retrospective of his career and at the same time celebrate the creative potential of our region with his new work is a great honor for the High.”

Other artists that have been featured in “Picturing the South” series include Sally Mann, Dawoud Bey, Richard Misrach, Emmet Gowin, Alex Webb, Alec Soth, Martin Parr, Kael Alford and Shane Lavalette.

Images in the exhibit include:

· “Camera Obscura: Manhattan View Looking South in Large Room,” 1996

· “Down the Rabbit Hole” (From “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”), 1998

· “Camera Obscura: View of Midtown Atlanta Looking South In Conference Room,” 2013

· “Camera Obscura: View of Atlanta Looking South Down Peachtree Street in Hotel Room,” 2013

· “Cutout in Print with Trees Behind,” 2013

· “Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming,” 2011

· “Paper-Self,” 2012 (a portrait of the artist’s profile as delineated by a stack of paper)

According to a biography supplied by the High Museum, “Morell immigrated with his family to the United States as a teenager in 1962. He received a scholarship to attend Bowdoin College in Maine, where he took his first photography course. He later received an MFA in photography from Yale University, looking to street photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank for inspiration. After the birth of his son in 1986, he began making large-format pictures around his home, examining common household objects with childlike curiosity. As a professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, he experimented with optics in his teaching and initiated a series in which he turned an entire room into a camera obscura, photographing the projection of the outside world over the surfaces of the room’s interior.”

Supporters of the exhibition include Tru Vue, Inc. and Gemini Moulding, Inc. The exhibition in Atlanta is made possible by contributing sponsor Delta Air Lines with additional support provided the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation and Friends of Morell, according to a High Museum spokesperson.