Laura Letinsky at Yancey Richardson
September 15, 2007-October 27, 2007

R. B. Kitaj once wrote, in a foreword to a book of Lee Friedlander's work, "The religion of photography rather insists on remembrance." Nowhere does that notion seem more resonant than in Laura Letinsky's luxuriously lit still lifes, in which what asks to be remembered always occurs before our witness. In this exhibition, titled "To Say It Isn't So," Letinsky moves her elegiac images of abandoned tables after a meal, formally reminiscent of classic Dutch and Flemish still lifes, out of their domestic sphere and into the studio. This time, rather than using religiously fraught objects such as decaying fruit and dead flowers, Letinsky chooses contemporary detritus (crushed Styrofoam cups, paper plates, white gift boxes) to populate her tables, with the aim of shedding the burdens of symbolism. These white or neutral-toned objects, bathed in natural light, challenge our sensitivity in perceiving them, not only against white tables but also against the gallery walls. A monochromatic decision like this could easily come off as overly self-conscious or academic, but Letinsky's averts such a fate with the images' stark evocations of loss and temporality. Indeed, these painterly, large-format photographs are saturated with the quietest nostalgia: Gifts have been opened, cake has been eaten, and the cast of characters has vanished, leaving behind its debris. According to the artist, this new series is intended to do away with both symbolic inferences and narrative; but it is the lost narrative-implied but, finally, irretrievable-that infuses the work with a depth and lyricism beyond its formal concerns. Those familiar with Letinsky's work will not be disappointed, though they may balk at seeing a Target bag and a ripped McDonald's cup included in her otherwise unassuming repertoire. Suddenly, brand associations-louder, it would seem, than any earlier religious ones-threaten to upset the decorum of Letinsky's meticulously considered aesthetic, reminding us that even the richest, most private pleasures often take place at the periphery of the banal.

Artforum.com, October 15, 2007