Although she’s been friendly with artists from both coasts of the United States throughout her five-decade career, Vija Celmins has remained agnostic regarding trends and movements; like nature itself, her discipline operates on its own terms. “When I’m working,” she says in a 1992 interview with Chuck Close, “my instinct is to try to build and to fill. To fill something until it is really full.” She has referred to her meticulous, overflowing portraits of the natural world as “redescriptions,” a word that implies paraphrasing rather than pure invention. But this perhaps minimizes her genius—nearly as expansive and awe inspiring as the night skies and desert floors they depict, Celmins’s works demand to be experienced firsthand. In that setting, they close the distance, enveloping the viewer in gloriously rendered detail. The first major North American exhibition of her work in more than twenty-five years is on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through March 31, after which the show will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario (May 4–August 4) and the Met Breuer (September 23, 2019–January 12, 2020). Below, we present a selection of images from the book Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory, which accompanies the show.
Images from Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory, edited by Gary Garrels, published by Yale University Press in association with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. © 2018 Yale University Press.