Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Laura Letinsky: After All @Richardson

JTF (just the facts): A total of 8 large scale color photographs, framed in white with no mat, and hung in the main gallery space. The prints come from two recent series: The Dog and the Wolf and Fall, both from 2008-2009. The images from The Dog and the Wolf are chromogenic prints, made in editions of 9, ranging in size from 29x41 to 43x53. The images from Fall are archival pigment prints on Hanhemule paper, also made in editions of 9, ranging in size from 41x58 to 48x58. A monograph of these bodies of work was recently published by Damiani (here) and is available from the gallery for $50. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Laura Letinsky has made a photographic career out of deconstructing the idea of a tabletop still life. Her images of the aftermath of a meal or the remains of a party are executed with the same sense of formality and control that is the hallmark of 17th century Dutch sill lifes, and yet her works are a complete inversion of these familiar bowls of fruit, a richly conceptual meditation on topics as diverse as the nature of change, the beauty of chance, and the decaying of life.

Letinsky's newest works follow two separate lines of aesthetic thinking. The images from Fall are engulfed in an abstract whiteness, where the angles and shadows of the walls and tabletop become a serene minimalist environment for the investigation of a single object: a crumpled white paper cup, a group of black cherries (with pits and stems), and a used plastic sundae container and spoon from McDonald's. The images from The Dog and the Wolf are altogether darker and messier. Gone is the perfect bright light, replaced by darker greys; tablecloths are rumpled and flower vases are shattered and broken. The collected items are exceedingly random and unexpected, perhaps symbolic, perhaps not: an octopus, a group of chocolate truffles, a purple ribbon, a dead bird, a multitude of tiny gold balls, a narcissus bulb, a bent strand of blue wire, loose pistachio shells, orange rinds, and egg shells. In these images, disarray reigns: leftover and forgotten fragments are abandoned in a heap or strewn across the table. The compositions are often wide open, taking in more of the broadness of the table, or looking down from an angle, changing the interaction between the objects in two dimensional space.

While not every one of these groupings and set-ups held my attention, I like the way Letinsky consciously subverts the viewer's expectations. The best of the works drift between being beautiful, in an anti-still life kind of way, and being wholly conceptual, in a brainy theoretical manner. I think this contrast gives her photographs additional layers of intellectual meaning and provides a jolt of contemporary energy to an exceedingly traditional genre.

Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows: the images from The Dog and the Wolf are either $5000 or $5500 each, while the images from Fall are either $6500 or $7000 each. Letinsky's work has little or no secondary market history, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • University of Chicago faculty page (here)
  • Reviews: New Yorker, 2010 (here), TimeOut Chicago, 2010 (here), Frieze, 2003 (here)
  • Interview: Evan Sklar (here)
Laura Letinsky: After All
Through October 30th

Yancey Richardson Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

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