Vija Celmins (American, b.1938) is an American painter and sculptor. Celmins was born in Riga, Latvia, and she migrated to the United States at the age of 10, settling in Indiana with her family. In 1962, Celmins graduated with a BFA from the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, and then went on to study at the University of California, Los Angeles, CA, where she received an MFA in 1965. She then got a position as an instructor with the California State College, Los Angeles, CA, from 1965 to 1966, before moving onto the University of California, Irvine, CA, for the same position in 1967. She taught at the latter school for the next five years.

Celmins gained international recognition very early in her career when, with an uncanny attention to detail and accuracy, she made renditions of natural scenes based on photographs lacking points of reference, depth of field, and horizons. Celmins has mastered the art of painting in different mediums, such as charcoal and oil, and several printmaking processes. Most of her earlier works are paintings of everyday objects like lamps, TVs, and black-and-white photographs. These paintings appear random, an effect that Celmins shares with Gerhard Richter (German, b.1932). Most of her recent works, however, are mostly intense and realistic drawings, although she still produces detailed paintings of the natural environment. Lately, her subjects have become very selective, focusing mostly on night skies, oceans, and deserts.

Examples of some of the most captivating works of Celmins include Moon Surface (Luna 9) No. 1 (1969) and To Fix the Image in Memory 9 (1977–1982). Celmins has received a number of awards, including an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award (1996), a Fellow Award in the Visual Arts from United States Artists (2009), and the Roswitha Haftmann Prize (2009). Celmins has been involved in a number of solo exhibitions including those held at David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CA (1966), Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, England (1999), and Celmins Prints, Herron School of Art, Indianapolis, IN (2003). Her group exhibitions include Seventy First American Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago, IL (1974), and Lifelike, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2012). Celmins now lives and works in New York, NY.

Timeline

1938
Born: Riga, Latvia
1962
Bachelor of Fine Arts: John Herron Institute, Indianapolis, IN
1965
Master of Fine Arts: UCLA
1980
Guggenheim Fellowship
1981
Resident Artist, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine
1984
Taught at Cooper Union, New York
1987
Taught at Yale Graduate School, New Haven, CT
1996
American Academy of Arts and Letters, Award in Art
1997
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship
2000–2001
Coutts Contemporary Art Foundation Award
Lives and works in New York, NY

Exhibitions

2011
Vija Celmins - Desert, Sea and Stars - Museum Ludwig, Cologne
2011
Prints And Works On Paper - Senior & Shopmaker Gallery, New York City, NY
2009
"Time & Place: Los Angeles, 1958-1968", Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland
2008
"Time & Place: Los Angeles, 1958-1968", Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
2007
Vija Celmins: A Drawing Retrospective, Hammer Galleries, UCLA
2007
Under the Starry Sky, Museum Franz Gertsch, Burgdorf, Switzerland
2007
The Painting of Modern Life, Hayward Gallery, London
2007
The Third Mind, Palais de Tokyo, Paris
2006–2007
Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Image, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
2006
Selections from the Collection of Edward R. Broida, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C
2006
McKee Gallery, New York
2006
Plane/Figure, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland
2006
Drawing Retrospective, Centre Pompidou, Paris
2006
A Trace of A Trace of A Trace, Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York
2006
Celmins, Gibbs + Martin, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
2006
Step Into Liquid, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO
2006
Against the Grain: Contemporary Art from the Edward R. Broida Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2005–2006
Imagined Worlds, AXA Gallery, organized by international Print Center, New York
2005
A Very Liquid Heaven, Tang Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
2005
Contemporary Voices, works from the UBS Art Collection, Museum of Modern Art, New York
2004–2005
The Undiscovered Country, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
2004
Dublin, Douglas Hyde Gallery, The Paradise, Vija Celmins
2003
Indianapolis, Herron School of Art, Celmins Prints
2003
New York, Susan Sheehan Gallery, Vija Celmins Prints
2002
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Prints of Vija Celmins
2001
Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst
2001
New York, McKee Gallery
1999
London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery
1997
Vija Celmins Works 1964-1996, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia Madrid, Spain
1996–1997
Survey exhibition, Institute of Contemporary Art London, England & travelled o Madrid, Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia; Winterthur, Kunstmuseum; Frankfurt, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Vija Celmins: Works 1964 - 1996
1996
McKee Gallery NYC
1995
"Vija Celmins", Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain Paris, France
1995
"About Place: Recent Art of the Americas", Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL
1995
"Contemporary Drawing: Exploring the Territory", Curated by Mark , Aspen Art Museum Aspen, CO
1995
"American Art Today: Night Paintings", The Art Museum at Florida International University Miami, FL
1995
"American Academy Invitational Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture", American Academy of Arts and Letters NYC
1995
"Group Exhibition", Daniel Weinberg Gallery San Francisco, CA
1994
"Love in the Ruins: Art and Inspiration of L.A.", Long Beach Museum of Art Long Beach, CA
1994
"The World of Tomorrow", Thomas Solomon's Garage Los Angeles, CA
1994
"Facts and Figures: Selections from the Lannan Foundation Collection", Lannan Foundation Los Angeles, CA
1994
"Fine Lines", Anthony Slayter-Ralph Santa Barbara, CA
1994
"Institute of Cultural Anxiety", Institute of Contemporary Art London, England
1994
"Vija Celmins - Prints, 1970-1992", Cirrus Los Angeles, CA
1992–1994
"Vija Celmins Retrospective", Organized by Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, PA & traveling
1993
"Vija Celmins - Printed Matter", University Gallery, Fine Arts Center University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
1992
McKee Gallery NYC
1990
"Vija Celmins: Drawings and Prints", Pence Gallery Santa Monica, CA
1988
McKee Gallery NYC
1983
McKee Gallery NYC
1973
Whitney Museum of American Art NYC
1965
Los Angeles, UCLA, Dickinson Art Center

Literature

Vija Celmins: A Survey Exhibition (exh. cat., intro. S. C. Larsen; Newport Beach, CA, Harbor A. Mus.; Chicago, IL, A. Club; Yonkers, NY, Hudson River Mus.; Washington, DC, Corcoran Gal. A.; 1980)
W. W. Bartman, ed.: Vija Celmins (Interviewed by Chuck Close) (New York, 1992)