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  • Literature

    Bruce Davis pp. 206-07
    Samantha Rippner pp. 18-19 nos. 7-10

  • Catalogue Essay

    Including: Ocean; Desert; Sky; and Galaxy

    “I like looking and describing, using images to explore the process of making.” Vija Celmins

    The ocean, the desert, and the stars are sources of endless fascination for artist Vija Celmins, who has meticulously rendered and reinterpreted these vast expanses of the environment across different disciplines since the 1960s. She first became fixated on the serene ocean near her Los Angeles home in the late 1960s, a subject which she began photographing, and in doing so, capturing the frozen states of rippling waves over and over again. These source photographs are the first building block of the artist’s practice, which she carefully reinterprets in drawing, painting and printmaking with precise strength and endurance, depicting an impossible image. Such impossibility lies in the nature of the her oceanscapes, deserts and galaxies which she explains are “nonspecific, too big, spaces unbound”, and endless with their impermanence and resilience. (Vija Celmins in conversation with Jeanne Silverthorne, Parkett 44, 1995) From graphite and painting, Celmin’s draftsmen dexterity and interest in the processes of mark making lead her to the art historical technique of printmaking which she describes as one that is “much more physical [than painting and drawing], with scratching and scraping and constantly having to imagine everything backwards.” (Vija Celmins interviewed by Samatha Rippner, A Delicate Balance, The Prints of Vija Celmins, 2002)

    Exposed to printmaking early in her career at art school, Celmins did not become fully engaged in the practice until 1980 at the renowned Los Angeles printing studio, Gemini (G.E.L.). Prints curator Samantha Rippner describes Celmins’ prints as having “little to do with the fastidious pursuits of the specialist printmaker; rather, they exploit the distinct attributes of the medium to address her ongoing aesthetic and intellectual concerns. Instead of pursuing technical innovation, Celmins turns to traditional intaglio, lithograph, and relief processes to endlessly manipulate and adjust her images” (Samatha Rippner, A Delicate Balance, The Prints of Vija Celmins, 2002).

    Pulling from her own snapshots, newspaper clippings and magazines, Celmins strategically crops the images by placing wide strips of masking tape around the area she wishes to reproduce and interpret. Leaving white borders around the edge, Celmins isolates the image, allowing the paper, as she explains, “to become an extension of the print. How the print sat on the paper and the peculiar proportion and placement all became the work. My feeling is that every decision about the size of the borders has corresponding effect on how one perceives the image” (Vija Celmins interviewed by Samantha Rippner, A Delicate Balance, The Prints of Vija Celmins, 2002).

    The small scale of Celmins’ prints, juxtaposed with the vast natural spaces she renders, confronts “a certain limitation”, according to the artist. A limitation “inherent in the set of tools and surfaces you’ve been handed and really exploring it in a way.” (Vija Celmins interviewed by Samatha Rippner, A Delicate Balance, The Prints of Vija Celmins, 2002) Cropped into a viewable format, the meticulously applied lines of her prints invite the viewer to lean in closer to the vastness of the ocean, sky, and desert, all of which remain grandiose in subject matter. The following lots exemplify Celmins’ continuous quest for the perfect artistic representation of nature, in both its unchanging durability and constant fluidity.


Untitled Portfolio

The complete set of four lithographs in colors, on Twinrocker Handmade Rag paper, with full margins.
all I. 12 3/8 x 16 1/2 in. (31.4 x 41.9 cm)
all S. 16 1/4 x 20 in. (41.3 x 50.8 cm)

All signed, dated and numbered 20/75 in pencil (there were also 15 artist's proofs for all), published by Cirrus Editions, Ltd., Los Angeles (with their inkstamp on the reverse), all framed.

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $37,500

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Editions and Works on Paper Including Works from the Piero Crommelynck Collection

New York Auction 18 April 2017