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Celebrating over 50 Years of Art by Vija Celmins

Artist, Vija Celmins, is renowned for her sensitive attention to subjects and compositions, SFMOMA celebrates her diverse work in a major retrospective

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The night sky, tightly packed with stars is a sight that is increasingly rare in our urbanized lifestyles. But for artist Vija Celmins the constellations, moon and vastness of the night sky are a just some of many subjects she has found herself returning to over and over throughout her 50 years career.

Since the 1960s Vija Celmins has made a name for herself through her sensitive portrayals of objects and nature in the mediums of painting, sculptures, drawing and prints. Becoming one of the first female artists to be recognized by her male-peers in the Los Angeles art scene of the 60s Celmins has continued to develop an individual style that has never adhered to a single artistic movement or group.

Celebrating the vast array of subjects and mediums that Celmins has devoted herself to, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) hosts the global debut of Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory. The retrospective displays over 140 works that span the artist’s career. It presents the works in loosely chronological order and includes pieces from the many series Celmins has created including Studio Objects, Disaster Works, Oceanscapes, Lunar Drawings, Desert Floors, Night Skies and Spider Webs.

Gary Garrels, the Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA and lead exhibition curator describes the making of the exhibition as “an exciting culmination of more than 10 years working closely with the artist.”

Complimenting the exhibition is an extensive 272-page catalog featuring illustrations as well as texts that explore the richness and fluidity of Vija Celmins’ art practice.

Garrels sums up the importance of the retrospective in stating “For more than 50 years, Celmins has sustained an extraordinary career, pursuing a unique vision using familiar subjects as a foundation for an intensive studio practice and exquisite, intimate compositions. As you move through the exhibition galleries, the works’ mesmerizing seduction suggests a pause, asking you to stop, to look, to truly see and attempt to remember, to fully experience a moment in time,”

‘Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory’ will be on display at SFMOMA until March 31. It will then travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario from May 4 – August 4 and have a final showcase at The Met Breuer, New York from September – January 12, 2020

Cover image: Vija Celmins in her studio, 2018; photo: Eric McNatt, courtesy the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins, Night Sky #16, 2000–01; oil on linen mounted on wood; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Helen and Charles Schwab through The Art Supporting Foundation; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins, To Fix the Image in Memory I–XI, 1977–82; eleven stones and eleven made objects (bronze and acrylic paint); The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Edward R. Broida in honor of David and Renee McKee; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins, Untitled (Ocean), 1977; graphite on acrylic ground on paper; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, bequest of Alfred M. Esberg; © Vija Celmins; photo: Don Ross, courtesy the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins, Shell, 2009–10; oil on canvas; private collection; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins, Japanese Book, 2007–8; oil on canvas; private collection; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins, Pencil, 1968–70; wood, canvas, and acrylic paint; Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins, Envelope, 1964; oil on canvas; private collection; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins, Web #1, 1998; charcoal on paper; Tate Modern, London, acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins, Clouds, 1968; graphite on paper; private collection; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
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