Critics’ Picks

Laura Letinsky, Untitled #2, 2008, color photograph, 32 x 40".  From the series “The Dog and the Wolf,” 2008–2009.

Laura Letinsky, Untitled #2, 2008, color photograph, 32 x 40". From the series “The Dog and the Wolf,” 2008–2009.

Chicago

Laura Letinsky

moniquemeloche
451 N Paulina Street
January 16–March 13, 2010

In her first series of domestic still-life photographs (“Morning, and Melancholia,” 2002–), Laura Letinsky put the contemporary kitchen countertop and the traditions of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings under analysis, as it were, revealing them both to be purveyors of deep-seated cultural meanings. In Letinsky’s subsequent bodies of work, the white tablecloth—traditionally a sign of cleanliness and elegance—figures as a screen on which a culture’s ideas surrounding food, desire, and sustenance are projected and consumed.

Succulence and decay, desire and the sense of repulsion that often follows satiety, are competing forces in the artist’s latest exhibition, a magnificently concise selection of five large-format color photographs culled from a new series titled “The Dog and the Wolf,” 2008–2009. These grimly elegiac images, all shot in the artist’s studio during the velvety gray hours of twilight, foreground to a greater extent than before the serene abjection at the heart of Letinsky’s project without sacrificing any of the exquisitely controlled formalism for which she is known.

The artfully strewn cellophane wrappers and fast-food packaging of her 2006 series “To Say It Isn’t So” have been replaced by a dead rabbit and pigeon, a pile of scooped-out oyster shells, and various minute scraps of organic detritus placed so precisely on the table’s surface as to suggest an excavation site rather than an abandoned meal. Shot from a range of perspectives, all of them somewhat disorienting, Letinsky’s dining table no longer appears as a deserted gathering spot. Now it seems more like a precipice, its contents pushed precariously close to the edge with nowhere left to go.