Opening: Thursday, November 18, 2021
On November 18, Glenstone Museum will open an exhibition by American artist Vija Celmins (b. 1938, Riga, Latvia) featuring selections from throughout her 60-year career. Designed in collaboration with the artist, the presentation will include key examples of the meticulous renderings of the natural world – from ocean currents to the night sky – for which she has gained widespread renown. Located in the Gallery building, the exhibition will mark the first solo presentation of the artist’s work in the Washington, D.C. area since 1979.
“Instantly recognizable yet utterly enigmatic, Vija Celmins’s works are not so much ‘scenes of nature’ as fragments of a vast, ungraspable reality, made visible through the artist’s hand,” said Emily Wei Rales, director and co-founder of Glenstone. “These are artworks that explore the nature of human perception.”
The exhibition will include a range of media spanning paintings, drawings, mezzotints, and sculpture, several of which are careful reinterpretations of images culled from books and magazines. Among the earliest works on view is Forest Fire, 1965–66, a painting based on an image of an uncontrolled conflagration on the California coast. Celmins demonstrates her painstaking, gradual approach to artmaking in A Painting in Six Parts, 1986–87/2012–16, in which she transformed an ocean wave image of her own making into a series of paintings unique in tone and dimension, a process that took 30 years.
The presentation also reveals the artist’s fascination with everyday objects that take on otherworldly qualities when she detaches them from their original function, scale, or material. Pencil, 1968-1970, transforms the title object into a three-dimensional sculpture measuring more than five feet in length. Vase, 2017–2018, painted in oil, depicts neither the object itself nor its function, instead offering a detailed view of the pattern of fine cracks that covers its glazed surface.
With the exception of one work on loan from the artist, the exhibition will be drawn from Glenstone’s collection. “Although Vija Celmins continues to enjoy a long and distinguished career, she brings such protracted, concentrated attention to each subject that her works are relatively rare,” Emily Wei Rales continued. “Every exhibition of Vija Celmins is exceptional. We are deeply proud to be able to present this selection of her works.”
Vija Celmins immigrated to the United States with her family in the late 1940s. She studied at the John Herron School of Art in Indiana and Yale University before moving to Los Angeles in 1962 to pursue a master’s degree at UCLA. In 1981 she moved to New York City, where she currently lives and works. Celmins’ first retrospective was organized by the ICA Philadelphia in 1992. Since then, she has mounted numerous solo exhibitions, culminating in To Fix the Image in Memory, a major retrospective of her work that traveled the United States and Canada from 2018–2019, installed at SFMOMA, Art Gallery of Ontario and Met Breuer. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1996 and received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1997.
Glenstone is open Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors are also invited to explore the grounds or participate in self-guided sculpture tours. Admission to Glenstone is free and visits can be scheduled online at: www.glenstone.org. Same-day visits can be scheduled online.
Students 12 and older, active-duty military members, and museum professionals enjoy guaranteed entry for themselves plus one guest upon presenting a valid identification card at the Arrival Hall. Advanced registration is not required for visitors in these categories. Passengers who arrive at Glenstone on the Ride On bus (route 301) also will be offered guaranteed entry.
At Glenstone, masks are currently required except when visitors and associates are outdoors and more than six feet apart from other households. For a list of current visitor guidelines, please review the Plan Your Visit page on www.glenstone.org.
Glenstone Museum is located at 12100 Glen Road, Potomac, MD.