American, born Latvia
1938, Riga, Latvia
Born in Latvia, Vija Celmins fled the country with her family at the start of World War II. They lived in refugee camps until immigrating to Indianapolis in 1948. Celmins went on study painting in Indiana and at UCLA, and soon became known for realistic but uncanny paintings of household appliances as well as repainted versions of journalistic images. The latter works objectively record the mediation of real-world events by black-and-white television and photography.
Celmins's mastery of gray tones was well suited to her later depictions of expansive natural phenomena such as desert sand, ocean waves, starry skies, or spider webs. In these works she laboriously translates photographic details into paintings, drawings, and prints. Despite their realism, the images relate to all-over abstraction in the sense that they reject the pictorial conventions of depth and a single figure on a distinct background.
Through a series of study days and innovative workshops, the Artist Initiative team developed new display and interpretation strategies for the artwork of Vija Celmins.
Please note that artwork locations are subject to change, and not all works are on view at all times. If you are planning a visit to SFMOMA to see a specific work of art, we suggest you contact us at email@example.com to confirm it will be on view.
Only a portion of SFMOMA's collection is currently online, and the information presented here is subject to revision. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to verify collection holdings and artwork information. If you are interested in receiving a high resolution image of an artwork for educational, scholarly, or publication purposes, please contact us at email@example.com.