VIJA CELMINS: NEW WORK April 29 – June 25, 2010


April 29 – June 25, 2010

The MCKEE GALLERY is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by VIJA CELMINS opening Thursday, April 29, and continuing through June 25, 2010. This long-awaited exhibition will be Celmins’ first gallery show since 2001.

A highly-acclaimed and much-admired artist nationally and internationally, Celmins is well-known for her paintings, drawings and prints of oceans, galaxies and webs. Throughout her artistic career she also has painted three-dimensional objects, such as pencils, erasers, a giant comb, puzzles, and houses of the 1960s, and in the early 1980s pairs of “identical” stones, one real, the other painted bronze, blurring the line between painting and sculpture, representation and abstraction, conceptual and physical realities.

The new body of work is a continuation and a departure for Celmins. She taps into old sources with a fresh eye and extends that view over 3 media. Her work, as always, is both intimate and cosmic.

In the new objects the intimate is even more directly personal, using childhood memories as its subject. Schoolroom objects, such as slate tablets, globes, maps, have a poignant, old-fashioned bent. 16 of the tablets in the exhibition are made objects, either cast in bronze and then painted or painted wood to re-invent the old slates. They are stacked or lined up with found tablets, much as the earlier stones were, to tease the viewer into looking closely.

There are 4 paintings in the exhibition, 3 of which are of objects personally very special to the artist. Shell 2009-10 and Darwin 2008-10 are new images for Celmins. Japanese Book 2007-10, related to a project she did for The Museum of Modern Art in 2005, is of an old book she found during a trip to Japan in 2003. The more familiar Dark Galaxy 2000-10 is the fourth painting in the show.

In addition to the objects and the paintings, Celmins has produced 9 exceptional new prints—6 galaxy mezzotints, a web, a map and a globe, with the printer, Doris Simmelink.

Vija Celmins was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1938. She and her family were in Europe during World War II and several of her images in later paintings reflect the violence of that period. In 1948 the family came over to the United States and settled in Indianapolis.

She received her BFA from the Herron Institute in 1962 and her MFA from UCLA in 1965. Celmins lived in Los Angeles from 1962-1980, when she moved to New York, where she still lives. She has received many awards, including the MacArthur Grant in 1997. Her first museum survey exhibition was organized in 1980 by the Newport Harbor Art Museum, California. In 1992 a full retrospective was organized by the ICA in Philadelphia and traveled to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and MOCA, Los Angeles. In 1996 a European retrospective took place at the ICA, London, traveling to the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, and the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt. She also had a solo drawings exhibition at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel, in 2001 and a print retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 2002. More recently, a drawings retrospective was organized by the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 2006 and traveled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, in 2007.

Vija Celmins will be the subject of a solo exhibition this November at the Menil Collection, Houston, Texas, entitled, “Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster,1964-68” including 16 paintings and painted objects, which will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In January 2011 the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany, will open an exhibition of Celmins’ prints and drawings entitled, “Wüste Meer und Sterne (Desert, Sea and Stars)” which will travel to the Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, Denmark. A large, definitive retrospective of Celmins’ paintings, drawings, objects and prints is scheduled for 2013/14.

For further information and images, please contact Karyn Behnke at or 212-688-5951.

Vija Celmins: New Paintings, Objects, and Prints