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Vija Celmins
Suspended Plane, 1966

Based on a found photograph of a World War II American B-26 bomber, Celmins’s haunting painting is cool and detached, yet highly charged with personal subject matter. The artist, who fled her native Latvia during World War II and subsequently immigrated to the United States, describes this painting as being “colored by the chaos of my early childhood in the war.” Not insignificantly, she painted the bomber during the Vietnam War.

Suspended Plane is also significant because it is among the earliest examples of Celmins’s career-long practice of painting from photographs. This method inserts a layer of distance between artist and canvas, and appealed to Celmins as a more authentic way of painting than the then-dominant, and seemingly exhausted, model of Abstract Expressionism. The work, marked by a remarkable degree of verisimilitude, even retains the original photograph’s signs of aging.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Suspended Plane
Artist name
Vija Celmins
Date created
1966
Classification
painting
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
18 x 28 in. (45.7 x 71.1 cm)
Date Acquired
2006
Credit
Collection SFMOMA
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Purchase, by exchange, through the bequest of Elise S. Haas
Copyright
© Vija Celmins
Permanent URL
https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/2006.1
Artwork Status
Not on view at this time.

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