Vija Celmins

Vija Celmins has long been admired for her meticulous renderings of natural imagery, including ocean waves, desert floors, and night skies. Her paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints depict scenes that are too vast or mercurial to be fixed in the mind’s eye. Celmins first became interested in representing the visible world during the early-1960s, when she began to paint the objects in her Los Angeles studio — lamps, heaters, and other overlooked fixtures of everyday life — before turning her attention to photographs found in magazines and history books. By the end of the 1960s, when she first developed her all-over compositions of waves, rocks, and celestial bodies, she had set aside paint in favor of graphite and charcoal. When she began painting again in the 1980s, drawing and printmaking remained central to her art. Regarding her commitment to the material aspects of her process, Celmins has said, “I believe if there is any meaning in art, it resides in the physical presence of a work.”

Celmins was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1938 and immigrated to the United States with her family in the late 1940s. She studied painting and printmaking 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, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Menil Collection in Houston, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1996 and received a MacArthur fellowship in 1997.

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Museum Exhibitions
The Long Run
Museum of Modern Art
New York, NY
Opens Nov 11, 2017
Making Waves
Honolulu Museum of Art
Honolulu HI
Jun 14, 2018 - Mar 31, 2019
Terrain: The Space Between from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation
The Schneider Museum of Art
Ashland, OR
Sep 28, 2018 - Jun 5, 2019

California Cool: Art in Los Angeles, 1960s–70s
National Gallery of Australia
Canberra, Australia
Oct 6, 2018 - Feb, 2019
Painting the Night
Centre Pompidou-Metz
Metz, France
Oct 13, 2018 - Apr 15, 2019
One Day at a Time: Manny Farber and Termite Art
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angles
Los Angeles, CA
Oct 14, 2018 - Mar 11, 2019

West by Midwest
Museum of Contemporary Art
Chicago, IL
Nov 17, 2018 - Jan 27, 2019
Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco, CA
Dec 15, 2018 - Mar 31, 2019