Comments/Context: Laura Letinsky's new show continues her relentless exploration of the limits of the photographic tabletop still life. While her previous series probed the abstract interactions of white table edges and falling light and documented the decayed mess of seemingly random but carefully controlled party leftovers, her newest pictures dive into a deeper and more layered conceptual pool, adding elements of appropriated collage that undermine our ability to make sense of the reality on view.
Nearly all the images in this show play with the interaction between two dimensional flatness and three dimensional volume, mixing "an image of the thing" paper cutouts with actual objects in tightly tangled set-ups. In its simplest form, this is embodied by a real tomato arranged next to an image of two more in a bowl, where roundness and depth become surprisingly uncertain quantities. Letinsky expands this idea with crafty nuance, intermingling real desserts, slices of fruit (peach, cantaloupe), silverware, and glassware with paper stand-ins (both color and black and white), creating full gatherings that tug and pull our perception back and forth. The scale of the collage elements is often close to normal but just a hair off kilter; a cutout fork is a bit too large, or an image of a pitcher is too small in comparison to the other objects that surround it, throwing off the normal sense of compositional balance. Many of the items are daisy chained together, drawing the viewer's eye across the surface of the image, alternating between thin and thick, distorted and true. Even the table itself is up for interpretation: it is a real table, a photographic picture of a table, paper taped to the wall, or just light falling in a parallelogram, or maybe some combination of all four? Are the angles and shadows "real" or optical illusions? The pictures continually upend our ability to comprehend them, forcing us to slow down and unpack each discrete element to test its veracity.
I like the fact that these new works are more challenging than some of her earlier projects; Letinsky seems to be aggregating her ideas into ever more complex and brainy constructions. I now see connections to Daniel Gordon's image sculptures or to many others currently playing with rephotography and layered physical photocollage. While staying within the confines of her chosen sandbox, she's opened up some exciting new territory for exploration.
Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced between $6750 and $10500, based on size and place in the edition. Letinsky's work has very little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail remains the only likely option for those collectors interested in following up.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
- Artist site (here)
- Exhibit: MCA Chicago, 2012 (here)
- Reviews: New Yorker (here), Daily Serving (here)
Through October 20th
Yancey Richardson Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011