February 24 - April 4, 2015
A Moment on the Lips features ten photographs each from Laura Letinsky's two recent series, Albeit and Ill Form and Void Full. The artist has been making both bodies of work concurrently, starting on Ill Form and Void Full in 2010 and Albeit in 2012. Although both series include elements of the domestic still lifes for which she received wide recognition—leftover fruit rinds, spilled red wine, recently used plates, and not-quite-fresh flowers, all employed to reference satiation, need, and desire—these works represent a departure not only in Letinsky's method of making but also in her thinking about photography. Installed in two adjoining galleries, viewers can see how Ill Form and Void Full and Albeit have informed each other, while each series maintains its integrity.
For her Ill Form and Void Full series, Letinsky photographs "still lifes" that she constructs in her studio from actual objects and fragments of images from home décor and art magazines, advertisements, digital images, and her earlier work. At a quick glance, objects such as yogurt-covered spoons, sliced ham, squeezed grapefruit, fresh raspberries, ceramic platters, and melting lollipops seem to rest on sun-bathed tabletops, but upon a closer look, it becomes evident that these "objects" are reproductions. Her images teeter and tilt on shifting planes made from overlapping layers of white that serve as walls and tables. Letinsky deftly exploits the possibilities of positive and negative space, carefully slicing the shapes of goblets, vases, flowers and plates either into or out of images of other dishes, tablecloths, or florals. She invites the viewer to witness the labor of their making by allowing the pieces of tape holding the compositions together to show and the edges of cut pieces to curl thereby revealing bits of text on the verso.
Letinsky's resulting images shift a viewer's perception of a photographed space, calling, in the artist's words, ;our want of illusions into question. They make the photographic moment evident as it is engendered by the camera's monocular lens. While discussing the inspiration for this turn in her work, Letinsky shares her view that photography, in its infinite reproducibility, feeds into the "endless cycle of obsolescence, repetition, compulsion that is endemic in our society" and these photographs offer a "propositional, in-between place" that undermines the authority of the camera.
As with Ill Form and Void Full, for her intimately scaled Albeit works, Letinsky composes an arrangement of images she has cut and torn from existing sources; however, she builds the composition on a flatbed scanner, turning over control of the light and depth of field to the tabletop machine. Letinsky discusses the scanner's movements across the surface as an all-seeing eye and a true democratic process compared with the singular lens of the camera.
Letinsky's work has been included in solo exhibitions at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Denver Art Museum; Mumbai's Focus Photography Festival; Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa, Ontario; The Renaissance Society, Chicago; Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto; Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York; and the Photographer's Gallery, London, among others. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago; Miami Art Museum, among others. Letinsky's work is included in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Getty Center, Los Angeles; Microsoft, Seattle; Hermés, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. The artist has received grants or fellowships from the Richard Driehaus Foundation, Illinois Arts Council, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and Anonymous Was A Woman Foundation. Her publications include Ill Form and Void Full (Radius Books, 2014); After All (Damiani, 2010); Hardly More Than Ever (The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 2004); Blink (Phaidon, 2002); and Venus Inferred (University of Chicago Press, 2000). Letinsky, a Professor at the University of Chicago, is represented by Valerie Carberry Gallery, Chicago, and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York.
This exhibition was curated by Senior Curator Kendra Paitz, and is supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.