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A Tale of Two Cities

A work made of gelatin silver print; edition 6/30.
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York.

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  • A work made of gelatin silver print; edition 6/30.

Date:

2001

Artist:

Abelardo Morell
American, born Cuba 1948

About this artwork

Abelardo Morell’s series on books depicts them simultaneously as conveyors of information and as palpable, even multisensory, objects. In 1995 he accepted a position as artist-in-residence at the Boston Athenaeum, an independent library and museum that was founded in 1807. “One of the big pleasures of this project has come from spending a good amount of time looking at, holding, smelling, and reading a terrific number of skinny, fat, tall, pompous, modest, funny, sad, proud, injured, and radiant books,” he later wrote. Recognizing that the physical features of books affect our perception of their contents, Morell transformed these humble, familiar things in ways that continue to occupy him to this day.

In this photograph of the opening page of Charles Dickens’s novel A Tale of Two Cities, Morell shows how the book’s paper, translucent in the light, allows words from either side to blend and confuse meaning. Phrases running forward and backward —“Light” and “dirty procession,” “epoch of belief” and “because he had not kneeled”—contradict each other. This visual opposition seems to literalize Dickens’s famous first sentence, which begins: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.”

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Photography and Media

Artist

Abelardo Morell

Title

A Tale of Two Cities

Origin

United States

Date

Made 2001

Medium

Gelatin silver print; edition 6/30

Dimensions

46 × 57 cm (image); 51 × 61 cm (paper)

Credit Line

Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser

Reference Number

2014.1219

Copyright

© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York.

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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