Laura Letinsky

Morning and Melancholia

New York

January 31 – March 23, 2002

Press Release

31 January – 23 March, 2002

Edwynn Houk Gallery is pleased to inaugurate its exclusive representation of the photographer LAURA LETINSKY with an exhibition of her most recent series, MORNING, AND MELANCHOLIA. The show, consisting of 20 large scale (20 x 24 inches) color prints, opens with a reception for the artist on January 31st (6 – 8 PM), and runs through March 23rd, 2002.

Laura Letinsky’s lush color photography explores the complex notions of intimacy, desire, and loss. With her first series of photographs, “Venus Inferred”, Letinsky (born 1962), attempted to “picture what love … looks and feels like” by portraying heterosexual couples in intimate situations of abandon, cast in their own private domestic spaces. Letinsky’s current series, “Morning, and Melancholia”, carries this meditation on the fortuitous beauty of the mundane a step further by focusing on details of domesticity. It is made up of photographic still lifes which concentrate, as the artist puts it, on “ the ‘aftermath’ of making food and eating – greasy finger prints on a glass, wasps scavenging for something sweet, discarded worm-laden apples and fat-streaked knives”.

Formally, and narratively, Letinsky addresses the relationship between ripeness and decay, plenitude and waste, pleasure and sustenance. Her poetic arrangements of ripening fruit, wilting flowers, crumbs, fish bones and dishware perched askew, are deliberately composed in the pictorial tradition of Dutch-

Flemish and Italian still lifes, known as “vanitas”. Drawing on the allegorical pith of her subject matter, her compositions summon notions of love, fertility, fecundity, temptation…even loss, as the title of the series indicates: a play on the title of Freud’s seminal essay, Mourning, and Melancholia. Like the 17th Century painters before her, Letinsky invites viewers to ponder the perishable nature of all worldly things, and the evanescence of sensual pleasures.

Letinsky also shares with the still life masters a deeply sensual approach to the rendering of mundane objects. Her color prints – which she executes herself – have a distinct porcelain-like sheen which is at once ethereally delicate and voluptuously tactile. Ultimately it is the camera’s specific alchemy that is revealed: its mysterious ability to bend space, and alter perspectives - both literally and figuratively. Letinsky successfully engages photography’s transformative qualities, and in her words, “change what is cast aside into something beautiful”.

A graduate of the Yale University School of Art, Letinsky has seen her work exhibited at MOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, among others. Her first monograph, Venus Inferred, was released by the University of Chicago Press in 2000, the year she received a Guggenheim Fellowship Award. Her photographs are in the collections of, among others, Yale University Art Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), the Museum of Fine Art (Houston), the San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. Canadian-born, Letinsky lives and works in Chicago where she is Associate Professor at the University of Chicago.