About The Artist
The contemporary painter Vija Celmins is greatly admired throughout the world, but many forget that she had her start in Venice, California. Though before she arrived in America, Celmins and her family fled their hometown of Riga, Latvia to escape the imminent Soviet occupation of 1944. After a brief stay at a United Nations refugee camp in Germany, they eventually found solace in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1948. As a 16-year-old art student, she traveled to New York City where she encountered paintings by de Kooning and other Abstract Expressionists. Her infatuation with Action painting was short-lived however, and upon graduating the John Heron Art Institute, she moved to Los Angeles in 1962 to begin her MFA at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1964, Celmins chose to venture into a minimal, almost primitive style, painting still lifes of common objects in her studio: a space heater, a fan, a lamp, eggs on a hot plate, cups, spoons, and forks. Painting these everyday objects, cloaked in muted grays, served as a way for Celmins to stop thinking and inventing; this was a period for her to revitalize her work and while doing so, she ultimately broke through to create a form of art that was entirely her own. In 1965, Celmins’s thesis show marked a pivotal point in her career, replacing the common, everyday objects from her studio with surreal, radical imagery, commenting on current and historical disaster. The cups, forks, and space heater were replaced with a rhinoceros, a smoking gun, and a World War II fighter plane. Celmins eventually ventured into sculpture and continues producing photorealist paintings. Her work resides in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Relyea, Lane, Robert Gober, and Briony Fer. Vija Celmins. New York: Phaidon, 2004. Print.
Sirmans, Franklin, and Michelle White. Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. Print.