Vija Celmins in Our Constellation

Vija Celmins in Our Constellation
A photo from the artist’s personal archive . Vija Celmins in her workshop in New York, 1987
Arta Vārpa, speciāli „Rīga 2014”
07-04-2014 A+ A-
One of the most awaited “Riga 2014” events will be taking place at the “Riga Bourse” Art Museum from the 12th of April to the 22nd of June – Latvia-born U.S. artist VIja Celmins’ solo exhibition “Double Reality”.

This is the American artist Vija Celmins’ first solo exhibition in Riga – the city where she was born and lived for five years until 1944 when she and her family had to flee Latvia.

It is safe to say that the scope of the upcoming exhibition is unprecedented for Latvia – we will see works from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, Foundation Cartier in Paris, Tate Modern in London, National Galleries of Scotland, McKee Gallery in New York, the artist’s own collection of her artworks, and we may feel honoured that, besides these works, the exhibition will also include the artist’s works from the Latvian National Museum of Art collection, the U.S. Embassy in Latvia, and the Mūkusala Art Salon.


The solo exhibition will showcase Vija Celmins’ works created from 1964 to 2014. The exhibition’s curator Elita Ansone, in close collaboration with the artist, has tried to make the exhibition as broad as possible to show the public works that represent Vija Celmins’ art during the various periods of her creative career spanning fifty years. The exhibition will feature paintings, sculptures, objects, drawings in pencil and charcoal, as well as prints – mezzotints, aquatints, drypoints, etchings and wood engravings.


Vija Celmins’ renowned and convincing presence in the American art elite, her works included in the world’s most prestigious museum collections and exhibitions – all speaks for itself, as if reminding us that perhaps we have failed to notice that the Latvia-born Vija Celmins is an important living international artist. However, what is the secret behind the value of her art, who is Celmins herself from the viewpoint of art and life – that is something that we have known very little about so far.

Only while preparing for the exhibition did we have the opportunity to read interviews that surprised us greatly by being very heartfelt and candid, as well as offering a highly intellectual and nuanced opinion about the creative process. The vitality of Vija Celmins’ personality, which is at the same time very delicate, is truly inspiring.

We have heard a lot about Vija Celmins, and now we have also read what she has to say, but we have not experienced her art. That is why her upcoming solo exhibition, and the exhibition catalogue to be published in the near future, will offer every visitor and reader the experience of artistic creativity by Celmins.

“A work completed continues its own and independent life in this world. This is actually a little frightening. People can see completely different things in it – and that’s fine because the work is not over yet – it continues to live. And then, a work often dies because people can no longer associate themselves with it,” says the artist when talking to the exhibition’s curator Elita Ansone who, while working on the exhibition, visited the artist in America several times, and has studied Vija Celmins’ work extensively.

Stars, galaxies and the moon’s surface, the ocean and spider webs are the most popular motifs in Vija Celmin’s works. These are themes that seem to prompt the viewer to participate in the perception of the work with his or her associations, thoughts about eternity, human and global scales.

“The sea is not symbolic. However, if someone wants to see symbolism, they will see it. Anywhere!” says Celmins. “People want to see themselves in my works, whereas I keep them out. You don’t know anything about space! This is an abstraction. We have never seen space and, if we didn’t have photographs, we wouldn’t even know that it exists.”


The works by Vija Celmins are something else than what they depict. To her, the materiality of work is what matters – that which is created on paper as a result of a long and meticulous dot-after-dot process. “Vija Celmins is interested in remembering and careful observation. She likes to be precise, as much as possible, and she provokes the viewer to immerse him or herself into minute details,” comments the exhibition’s curator.

Hence the name of the exhibition, “Double Reality” – Vija Celmins does not depict reality, but creates a new reality. The image is somewhere deep in our mind. And the artist wants the viewer to stay in this double reality.

Vija Celmins’ solo exhibition is a long-awaited occasion: a long-awaited meeting with an outstanding personality and outstanding art, which belongs to the world as well as to us.

Therefore the organisers of the exhibition urge any person interested in art to witness Celmins’ artistic experience, follow the exhibition and the accompanying events.



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