Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster

Vija Celmins - Man With Gun Vija Celmins - Burning Man

Painter Vija Celmins, born in 1938 in Riga, Latvia, has lived and worked primarily in New York since 1981. She immigrated to the United States at the age of ten with her family, settling in Indiana. After attending the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, Celmins completed her MFA at the UCLA in 1965.

With a palette focused on the gradations between black and gray, Celmins has been known as a painter of refined representational images of night skies, ocean waves and spider webs. But her first subjects were war planes, smoking guns, and other images of death and disaster. In all of her work, the precisely rendered paintings suggest the importance of patience – the artist’s, in making a precisely rendered painting, and ours, in viewing it.

Organized by the Menil Collection and consisting of approximately 20 paintings and two small sculptures, Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster will be the first exhibition to concentrate on a specific time (1964-1966) and subject matter – including violence in America, U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and the news media. While several early images derive from the artist’s own interest in common objects from the studio, such as a television set or a lamp, this exhibition also concentrates on images of war – and televised images of conflict. Celmins’s work from this pivotal time reflects on the moment when the printed image began to give way to the television screen.

This exhibition will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art March 13–June 5, 2011.