Vija Celmins at Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles
Matthew Marks is pleased to announce Vija Celmins, the next exhibition in his galleries at 1062 North Orange Grove and 7818 Santa Monica Boulevard. Including more than twenty paintings, sculptures, and works on paper made between 2014 and 2018, this will be Celmins’s first exhibition of new work in Los Angeles in over forty years.
The largest work in the exhibition, an oil painting more than five feet wide, depicts the night sky in reverse, an array of dark stars floating on a light-gray field. Its seemingly monochromatic palette includes vibrant colors applied in numerous layers to create a sense of depth. At the other end of the scale, just eighteen by thirteen inches, Celmins has painted a close-up of a glazed ceramic plate, depicting it as an allover pattern of white cracks on greenish-gray field.
Since the 1960s Celmins has been rendering nature imagery from black and white photographic sources, exploring the same subjects repeatedly in paintings, drawings, and prints. But imagery is not her foremost concern: “The recognizable image is just one element to consider. The paintings seem more a record of my grappling with how to transform that image into a painting and make it alive.” This process can be seen here in three works on paper — one a charcoal drawing, another a mezzotint, and the third a drypoint — based on a photograph of the ocean she took fifty years ago from a pier in Venice, California. The role of the photograph, she explains, is to provide an “armature on which I hang my marks and make my art,” in this case three distinct variations on the same moment frozen in time.
The scrutiny of Celmins’s gaze is perhaps most evident in her sculptures. Two Stones (1977/2014– 16) consists of a rock and a painted bronze replica virtually indistinguishable from the original. For each of the Blackboard Tableau works (2007–15), she collected an early-twentieth-century writing slate and then used wood, paint, and pastel to create an identical twin. Exhibited side by side, each pair is a perceptual conundrum that invites sustained looking.
Vija Celmins was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1938 and immigrated to the United States with her family in the late 1940s. She studied at the John Herron School of Art in Indiana and attended a summer session at Yale University in 1961 before pursuing a master’s degree at UCLA. In 1992 the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia organized the first retrospective of her work. She has had one-person exhibitions at numerous museums in the United States and Europe, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and LACMA and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Celmins lives and works in New York and Long Island.
at Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles
until 31 March 2018