Double reality but no commotion

  • 2014-05-01
  • By TBT staff

HOMECOMING: Latvian-American Celmins has had her works featured throughout the U.S. and Europe, but this is her first solo exhibition in Latvia.

RIGA - As part of the Riga European Capital of Culture program, almost 50 works by the world’s most famous Latvian painter, Vija Celmins, will be on show during the 2014 spring/summer season in the Art Museum Riga Bourse.
Works for the exhibition “Double Reality” have come from the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Art Gallery in Washington, U.S. embassy in Latvia, McKee gallery, Frankfurt am Main Art Museum, the Foundation Cartier Center for Contemporary Arts in Paris, the Latvian National Museum of Art and from Vija Celmins’ own collection.
Celmins (1938) was born in Riga, but in 1944 she and her family became refugees due to Soviet Russia’s illegal invasion and occupation of Latvia.

She emigrated to the USA in 1948, settling in Indiana in 1949. From 1963 – 1981 she lived and worked in Los Angeles. In 1981 she moved to New York.
We can say the exhibition will give viewers the opportunity to see the artist’s art over a 50-year period, as the oldest work, Gun with Hand, was painted in 1964. It tells of the artist’s political activism in the 1960s when young artists were ready to protest against any kind of violence.

Interviewed about her new exhibit, Celmina mentions that much in art cannot be described in words. She has no intention of causing a big commotion with her works; they are her reflection of reality. It is not an imprint, but a reproduction, or rather, a “re-creation.” Reality through a prism, from various vantage points, not just one, Celmina states.
Curator of the exhibition Elita Ansone said that the exhibit encompasses 50 years in her career.
Here we have paintings, sculptures, chalk drawings, wood-cuts, etchings, and more.

Celmins is also famous for her sculpture of the two meter-long wooden comb. This pop art period can also be seen in several of the artist’s works on show. In the 1960s Celmina depicted everyday items that were to be found in her ascetic studio in Venice, California. Visitors will be able to see surreally hypertrophied sculptures of erasers and pencils. There is also a table lamp painted with two bulbs like eyes.

In the 1970s the ocean, desert and stars became the main themes in the artist’s portfolio. Later, at the end of the 1990s, the artist also revealed the fragile and perfect structure of the spider’s web. Celmins continues to depict these natural structures. She has painted them, drawn them in graphite and charcoal, produced mezzotints, aquatints and lithographs. This is all in the attempt to see how far she can go in technical perfection.

Celmins dedicated five years of her creative work (1977-1982) to “stone works.” She cast stones gathered in the desert in bronze. Two works from this series – one real and one painted bronze – will be on show in the exhibition. Conceptual intellectualism in Celmina’s art is alsomanifest in her polyptychs in which two or three different images are included in one work, requiring the viewer to compare the scale of the space, the closeness or distance.

Not unlike thousands of other Latvian-Americans, artist Celmins fled the horrors of WWII in Latvia as a young child, eventually settling in the United States after years spent in refugeecamps in Germany. Although always a gifted art student, she discovered true inspiration at opposite ends of the USA, in both New York and California. Her paintings, drawings, graphic art, sculpture, photos and other works are now displayed at the world’s best modern and contemporary art museums. Many prestigious institutions have loaned some of their best pieces to the museum. A documentary film about the artist created by the renowned Juris Podnieks Studio will also be available to visitors.

On view until June 22
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