LAMA BLOG

Just In: Vija Celmins painting

March 9, 2018

During the mid-1960s, Latvian-American visual artist Vija Celmins began to move away from the Abstract Expressionist style that marked her early excursions into painting, and for a brief period focused on still life paintings and drawings, utilizing objects found close to hand in her studio space in order to sharpen her powers of perception. These explorations eventually led to using found photographs as source materials for her now acclaimed photo-realistic drawings and paintings of the natural world. Painting directly from photographs rather from real life, Celmins developed a process whereby engagement with the natural world is severely mediated by existing imagery that reproduces it, rather than via direct observation.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAAM)

Vija Celmins, Untitled (Fish), 1963
June 10, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

Using a rigorously pared-down, monochromatic color palette that favors tonal gradations of gray, Celmins’ potent, if austere compositions are striking in their representational accuracy coupled with their acute manipulation of scale and perspective, which she masterfully distorts and controls.

Celmins’ work, as she herself once put it, “lies between intimacy and distance.” Works such as her 1963 Untitled (Fish), which Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) is thrilled to have the opportunity to include in our upcoming auction, are notably absent of direct human presence, though traces of human intervention and its consequences are never too far from the surface.

In her paintings and drawings, Celmins pushes the still life in entirely new directions. As such, her work raises questions pertaining to the nature of representation and reproduction, and how our perception is continually filtered and distorted, even within our own minds.


Lot Details
Lot 140:
Vija Celmins
Untitled (Fish)
1963
Oil on canvas
Dated lower right edge of canvas; signed and dated canvas verso; retains artist’s label frame verso
Canvas: 17.75″ x 24.5″; Frame: 18.25″ x 25″
Estimate: $500,000-700,000
June 10, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

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