Sunday, November 16, 2003

  Two terrifically different still-life themed exhibitions are currently on view in Manhattan.

"Untitled 16", 1999. Laura Letinsky. "Tomatoes", 2003, oil on board. Julien Landa.

Julien Landa was a photographer before he turned to painting, while Laura Letinsky found her forte after switching from painting to photography.

"Untitled #32", Rome, 2001. Laura Letinsky.

Dishes, tabletops, vessels and utensils abound in works by both artists. Colorful flowers and food items speckle and spruce the surfaces. Licked lollipops, nibbled nougats, and other devoured delicacies fill Letinsky's images. Matter-of-fact leftovers languish in pastel-hued interiors. Crumbs, stains, and wrinkles peppering the tablecloths call for deciphering akin to that of tea leaf reading. The photographs are neither elegant nor handsome, per se. Yet they are decidedly seductive. The appeal is mystifying and undeniable.

"Chestnuts", 2003, oil on board. Julien Landa.

Landa's work, mentioned on these pages previously, is knowingly lush, extravagant, and dainty. Next to Letinsky's essentially improvised, lazily lounging meal remnants, Landa's meticulous set-ups are pinnacles of spiffy precision. Both bodies of work are paeans to sybaritism.

Julien Landa's "Recent Paintings" is at the Hammer Galleries through November 29th. Laura Letinsky's "I did not remember I had forgotten" is at the Edwynn Houk Gallery until January 17, 2004.

More of Landa's work can be seen on his website. I must say that the inspiration for his series built around golf paraphernalia escapes me, much as the attraction of the sport itself.

"Untitled #43", Rome, 2001. Laura Letinsky.

Letinsky has exhibited very widely, and plenty of her work is available on scores of gallery websites. Gahlberg Gallery even presents an exhibit catalog and a video interview with the photographer, all ready to download. Before Letinsky photographed tantalizing dinner debris, she focused on intimate portraits of couples in mostly sunlit interiors. Visitors from across the pond may be interested in catching Letinsky's "Morning and Melancholia" later this winter at the Shine Gallery in London.

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