100 Artists is a yearlong celebration of the 100 artists who have appeared to date in Art21’s award-winning film series Art in the Twenty-First Century. Throughout 2013, we are dedicating two to three days to each artist on our social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and here on the Art21 Blog. Our current featured artist is Vija Celmins.
On May 19, Celmins’s early still life Untitled (Knife and Dish) will go up for auction at Los Angeles Modern Auctions. The Los Angeles Times reported in January that the painting had been hanging in a household kitchen for almost 50 years. The original owners purchased the piece from Celmins in the ’60s, when she was based in Southern California and attending the University of California, Los Angeles. (Celmins has primarily lived and worked in New York since the ’80s.) From everyday interior objects to found rocks to spider webs to starry skies and ocean waves, Celmins’s subjects and styles have varied throughout her career. This is no more evident than in the array of solo and group exhibitions currently featuring her work. Accompanying this roundup are quotes from the artist pulled from Art21’s vast archive.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Closes March 30, 2013
“I remember kind of feeling the joy of being able to paint anything. At that time I painted a lot of different objects. Things that turned on, like my hotplate and the lamps…pretty much everything I had in the studio.”
Vija Celmins: Artist Rooms
Tate Britain, London, UK
Closes May 6, 2013
“Most of the changes in the work occur when I have had some kind of an experience that has been like a little awakening. Usually, I’ve forgotten all about it and then somehow it creeps into the work. The night skies I think came out of the pencil, pushing the pencil so hard and getting in love with the black. The ocean came from maybe walking my dog on the beach all the time and beginning to think of this giant surface…The [changes] come out of poking around my own life.”
The Pop Object: The Still Life Tradition in Pop Art
Acquavella Galleries, New York, NY
April 10—May 24, 2013
“I remember asking my mother to draw a flower for me when I was maybe about seven. (That was in Germany.) I thought she could do something that was really magical. She was not a draftsman, but she drew this little pansy—two little ears, one down, and then a little face. Like pansies have a little face! I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen; I loved it. I mean, who knows, maybe somehow I thought to myself, I’m going to be able to do this some day.”
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA
Closes May 27, 2013
“There aren’t really rules for painting, but there’s certain facts and fictions about painting. Part of what I do is document another surface and sort of translate it. They’re like translations, and then part of it is fiction, which is invention.”
Give Me Five!
Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany
Closes June 23, 2013
“I was sort of awed and scared of museums [as an adolescent]. I didn’t know how to look at paintings and it took a long time to learn, to figure out what it was about and to see them. I don’t remember one painting that really, totally knocked me over until I went to Europe and saw the Giotto Arena Chapel in Padua. Maybe it was all that glorious blue.”
Vija Celmins was featured in Season 2 of Art in the Twenty-First Century. Watch her segment at Art21.org.