Gary Garrels, San Francisco, 2019.
Best known for her striking drawings of ocean surfaces, begun in 1968 and revisited over many years both in drawings and paintings, Vija Celmins (b. 1938) has been creating exquisitely detailed renderings of natural imagery for more than five decades. The oceans were followed by desert floors and night skies—all subjects in which vast, expansive distances are distilled into luminous, meticulous, and mesmerizing small-scale artworks. For Celmins, this obsessive “redescribing” of the world is a way to understand human consciousness in relation to lived experience.
The first major publication on the artist in twenty years, this comprehensive and lavishly illustrated volume explores the full range of Celmins’s work produced since the 1960s—drawings and paintings as well as sculpture and prints. Scholarly essays, a narrative chronology, and a selection of excerpts from interviews with the artist illuminate her methods and techniques; survey her early years in Los Angeles, where she was part of a circle that included James Turrell and Ken Price; and trace the development of her work after she moved to New York City and befriended figures such as Robert Gober and Richard Serra.