Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, December 15, 2018 – March 31, 2019

“Long admired for her skillfully detailed renderings of natural imagery, Vija Celmins has created paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints for more than five decades. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) presents the global debut of Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory, the first North American retrospective of the artist’s work in more than 25 years. 

Featuring nearly 150 works, the exhibition spans the breadth of Celmins’s career, from the 1960s to the present. Organized in loose chronological order by subject—including studio objects, disaster works, oceanscapes, lunar drawings, desert floors, night skies and spider webs—it presents a wide variety of media, including paintings, drawings in graphite and charcoal and sculptures.

Celmins began her career in Los Angeles, where she became one of the rare 1960s female artists to be recognized by her male peers and develop significant standing. In the early 1980s, she moved to New York, and is one of few figures to have been embraced by the art communities on both coasts. A singular artist, Celmins has never adhered to one particular artistic style, nor aligned herself with a movement or any particular group. The artist’s work reflects an extraordinary attention to materials and technique, and possesses a remarkable level of detail and subtlety. It is anchored in a reappraisal of images and memory.” — SFMOMA

Vija Celmins, Envelope, 1964; oil on canvas; private collection; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins, Heater, 1964; oil on canvas; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, purchase with funds from the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins, Pencil, 1968–70; wood, canvas, and acrylic paint; Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins, House #2, 1965; wood, cardboard, and oil paint; private collection; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins, Letter, 1968; collage and graphite on acrylic ground on paper; collection of the artist; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins, Clouds, 1968; graphite on paper; private collection; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins, Untitled (Ocean), 1977; graphite on acrylic ground on paper; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, bequest of Alfred M. Esberg; © Vija Celmins; photo: Don Ross, courtesy the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Vija Celmins, To Fix the Image in Memory I–XI, 1977–82; eleven stones and eleven made objects (bronze and acrylic paint); The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Edward R. Broida in honor of David and Renee McKee; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins, Blackboard Tableau #1, 2007–10; three found tablets and seven made objects (wood, acrylic paint, alkyd oil, pastel, string, paper, and graphite); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase, by exchange, through the bequest of Elise S. Haas; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins, Japanese Book, 2007–8; oil on canvas; private collection; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins in her studio, 2018; photo: Eric McNatt, courtesy the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

 “For more than 50 years, Celmins has sustained an extraordinary career, pursuing a unique vision using familiar subjects as a foundation for an intensive studio practice and exquisite, intimate compositions,” said Gary Garrels, Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA and lead exhibition curator. “This exhibition is an exciting culmination of more than 10 years working closely with the artist.” 

Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory is co-organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is co-curated by Gary Garrels, Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA, and Ian Alteveer, Aaron I. Fleischman Curator, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Met, with Nancy Lim, assistant curator of painting and sculpture, SFMOMA, and Meredith A. Brown, research associate, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Met.

Images courtesy San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.