Art In America

Vija Celmins

at Matthew Marks,
522 West 22nd Street

To walk into Vija Celmins’s solo exhibition, her first in seven years, is to enter a world in gray. Detailed paintings of choppy seas and night skies thick with stars—her major subjects since the 1980s—feel immersive even at relatively modest scales because the horizon-less views fill their canvases. On pedestals are small sculptures. These perfect facsimiles of rounded stones suggest dizzying time scales: geologic erosion on the one hand and hundreds of hours work by the artist on the other. Celmins’s objects are dense with information, and her gray-scale palettes reveal blues and reds when you look closely. The great Painting in Six Parts (1986–87/2012–16), a series of canvases based on a photo she took from a pier in Venice, California, is not so much an example of photorealism as an intensification of vision. Even in a small format it feels like there are too many waves to see. The ocean is exaggerated, as it might be in a memory.

An attempt to capture fleeting memory seems to guide some of the newest works on view, sculptures that pair antique chalkboard writing tablets with exact reproductions of the same. Celmins has re-created all the scratches, dents, and skeins of chalk on objects that might have been found in early-twentieth-century schoolrooms. (The artist was born in Latvia in 1938.) The work is less a demonstration of virtuoso craftsmanship than a display of the struggle to fix ephemeral experience, the impossible task of art. —William S. Smith

 

Pictured: Vija Celmins: Two Stones, 1977/2014–16, one found stone and one stone made of bronze and alkyd oil, 2¼ by 8 by 5½ inches. Courtesy Matthew Marks, New York.

More from the Lookout

Elizabeth Jaeger

at Jack Hanley,
through Apr. 16
327 Broome Street

Closing

Sascha Braunig

at Foxy Production,
through Apr. 2
2 East Broadway, 200

Robert Frank

at Danziger Gallery,
through Apr. 8
95 Rivington Street

Closing

Yuji Agematsu

at Miguel Abreu,
through Apr. 2
88 Eldridge St. and 36 Orchard St.

Sarah Charlesworth

at Maccarone,
through May 6
98 Morton Street

Harvey Quaytman

at Van Doren Waxter,
through Apr. 28
23 East 73rd Street

Alice Neel

at David Zwirner,
through Apr. 22
525 and 533 West 19th Street

Georgia O’Keeffe

at Brooklyn Museum,
through Jul. 23
200 Eastern Parkway

Leonhard Hurzlmeier

at Rachel Uffner,
through Apr. 23
170 Suffolk Street

Eleanor Antin

at Alden Projects,
through Apr. 9
34 Orchard Street

Closing

Haroon Mirza

at Lisson Gallery,
through Apr. 1
136 Tenth Avenue

Closing

“Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965”

at Grey Art Gallery,
through Apr. 1
100 Washington Square East

“Self-Interned, 1942: Noguchi in Poston War Relocation Center”

at the Isamu Noguchi Museum,
through Jan. 7
9-01 33rd Road, Long Island City

Giorgio de Chirico and Giulio Paolini

at The Center for Italian Modern Art,
through Jun. 24
421 Broome Street

Closing

Arlene Shechet

at Frick Collection,
through Apr. 2
1 East 70th Street

Submit your e-mail to receive insider information from the art world every week.