The Remnants of Good Company: Laura Letinsky’s Deconstructed Table Scenes

Early work by Letinsky included portraits of people, but later moved into images of the aftermath of their presence: scattered tables, food, moved furniture, and so on. In this series, called “Ill Form and Void Full”—the subject of a 2012 exhibition at Valerie Carberry and a forthcoming monograph by Radius Books—Letinsky has arranged similar such scenes using collage elements like flat, excised images of food, serviceware, emptied bottles, sculpture, and potted plants, among other objects. The tableaux, which sometimes include imagery taken from Letinsky’s earlier work, are photographed and then printed, resulting in pictures that are simultaneously lively, spacious, flat, and languid.

“I do like the idea of ingestion and consumption and photography,” says Letinsky. “You could say that my work is in part about the relationship between looking at something and other bodily experiences.” In Untitled #53 (2014), she presents a table scattered with the vestiges of dinner and conversation. The scene is set with large, intersecting planes of paper, which feature foreshortened and overlapping spaces. Some of the elements are clearly cut out of catalogs or magazines, and tattooed with text. Others, such as a plate at right and a saucer on the left, are marked with empty holes and other breakages in the verisimilitude of the image. This kind of visual fracture is also seen in images such as Untitled #8 (2011), where peaches, flowers, and other foods appear delectable, even in their absolute two-dimensionality.

Untitled #38 (2013) hints at some of Letinsky’s methodology: a set of glasses in the upper right-hand corner is represented by the empty space they formerly occupied on a page. They are echoed by two crystal goblets just below them and, in the foreground, by a bottle of wine or liquor that is half-missing. The predomination of white and off-white across the images’ surfaces is everywhere countered by spots of color, whether scattered grape tomatoes and herb-like confetti, or, in works such as Untitled #48 (2013), a single spare peppermint reduced to near abstraction against a field of intersecting gray planes. The oblique natural light that enters her images reminds us of the passage of such moments and their remaining presence in the mind’s eye.

Letinsky’s work carves out a space of consideration and reflection invested with love of good company and good food. What we commonly see as chores, such as the piles of dishes and leftovers in Untitled #24 (2011), are transformed into cubist mementos of joy and affection.

—Stephen Dillon

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