Internationally known for her intensely realistic paintings and drawings, Vija Celmins has worked in the print medium since the early 1960s, meticulously rendering details of the natural environment through a careful exploration of process and mark making. While her work reveals an engagement with the natural world manifested throughout art history, Celmins’ approach to these enduring subjects is the result of a modern sensibility. Derived from photographs rather than direct observation—"the photographs are the subject matter," Celmins has said—her images dispel romantic notions of nature's sublime while retaining an inherent elusive mystery and poetic resonance.
Printmaking is, in its most traditional sense, a vehicle for monochromatic image making and therefore ideally suited to Celmins work. Her body of prints evolved naturally from her virtuoso drawing skill, specifically the graphite drawings of galaxies, ocean surfaces, and desert floors which found new expression in her lithographs of the 1970s, and later the intaglio techniques of mezzotint, etching, woodcut and wood engraving which she continues to employ today. The exhibition features recent editions such as Star Field, a luminous night sky dense with stars, Amerique, an illusionist recreation of an antique map in color aquatint, and Web 5, a filmy mezzotint of a spider web. Also featured is a rare set of four mezzotints created for a 1985 artist’s book, The View, with poems by Czeslaw Milosz and Ocean Surface Wood Engraving from 2000. A selection of drawings will be exhibited alongside the printed work.
Vija Celmins was born in Riga, Latvia in 1938 and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1948. She received her MFA from UCLA in 1965 and moved to New York in 1980. She has been the subject of numerous international museum exhibitions, including a solo drawings show at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel, in 2001 and a print retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 2002. The Centre Pompidou, Paris, organized a drawing retrospective in 2006, which traveled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, in 2007. More recently, Celmins was the subject of a solo exhibition in November 2010 at the Menil Collection, Houston, Texas, entitled, “Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster,1964-68” including 16 paintings and painted objects, which will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In April 2011, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany, will open an exhibition of Celmins’ prints and drawings entitled, “Wüste Meer und Sterne (Desert, Sea and Stars)” which will travel to the Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, Denmark. A retrospective of Celmins’ paintings, drawings, objects and prints is scheduled for 2013/14.
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