The conceptual and intricately composed photographs of the Canadian artist are reminders of her indisputable mastery in still life photography and reveal a sensibility that is at once powerful, tenuous and undeniably political.
To Want For Nothing, it's the latest series of Laura Letinsky, which she created over the last two years between Chicago, where she teaches, and Berlin. Each photograph shows pieces of cut out, cut up, and ripped out images that were then arranged together in a baroque and enigmatic manner. Objects, places, bodies and text are identifiable, but no single image or theme takes over and any hierarchy has been blurred. The composition is extremely precise and the balancing is sometimes wobbly, fragile, as if everything were at the edge of a precipice. This strange collection of accumulated images floats in the white-gray space of a studio where one can guess at the table edges, the angles of the walls and the projected shadows.
The master of still lifes
These fragments of images, arranged by the artist in a deliberately intuitive way, were not chosen at random and all come from a certain type of imaginary landscape, that of advertising and print: auction house catalogues and fashion, travel, wedding and interior decorating magazines, to be specific. Laura Letinsky continues her exploration of still lifes representing, in her words, intimacy, home, and private lives (Interview with Brian Sholis for the Aperture magazine, January 13, 2013). Once again, she sublimates the genre and expresses its essence. These incomplete images, whose nature is sometimes difficult to identify and which can take adjusting to, reinforce photography's ability to put everything on the same level, to render equal, and also to influence and promote products.
Photography and Desire
The title of the exhibition, To Want For Nothing, seems to accuse these advertising images of such unrelenting recommendations, and each photograph comes across as a warning. These images from magazines are piled up and repeat themselves as if to delimit and indefinitely provoke our capacity for desire, for wanting to own and consume. Consumption, an idea dear to the artist as seen in her previous series, is expressed here in a less melancholy than normative way. This desire, should it be fulfilled, is double-edged and resonates as an exhortation to want for no real reason. Laura Letinsky is telling us that photography is powerful and intrinsically linked to desire, for better and for worse. She is also telling us that, through its vulnerability, photography is born out of desire and always leads to another, enigmatic and indefinable, desire to come.
By Hugo Fortin