Monday, November 17, 2008


Vija Celmins (American, born Latvia, 1938). Untitled (Ocean with Cross #1). 1971.
Graphite on acrylic ground on paper
17 3/4 x 22 3/4"

Ocean begins a week with a focus on drawing. I was struck by this work when I first saw it at a show at MoMA. I've come across Celmins a number of times since and this work in particular again recently. The detail of the drawing is mind-blowing. This reproduction lends itself to the look of a photograph and this is not much different than seeing it at any sort of a distance in person. Once you move very close to the work you see that it is not a photograph (though I still needed a look at the label to confirm it was a drawing). Celmins has also created this image as a woodcut, just as incredible (maybe more so now that I am aware of the intensity it takes to get comfortable with let alone become adept at any kind of detailed woodcut).

Celmins is particularly interested in the artistic process which explains the attention she has paid to building up surfaces and tackling labor intensive printing processes such as mezzotint and woodcut. Celmin focuses on grand surface landscapes such as the ocean, desert and the surface of the moon. Her drawings and prints are soothing and beautiful.


johnh said...

Aside from the fact that this may be technically well made (which I can't tell from this internet picture) I find that it has very little artistic merit to recommend it.

DopeTasticQ said...

Dear JohnH I respectfully disagree on your comment about this piece's artistic merit. The ability to capture the mesmerizing rhythm of moving water with a pencil is not to be dismissed as just an achievement in technique! And to think of a wood cut....

A.L. said...

Personally I think it is quite beautiful, though you are right that the digital reproduction leaves much to be desired. When I showed it to someone though and and said it was done in pencil, it got a wow, despite not seeing the real thing. I think it is an achievement in technique though that is not what drew me to it in the first place. Just the image of the water did that, often expecting things to be photographs from a distance (and even if it was I would be interested due to the choice of only exposing the water - no sky - no earth - no animal - no object)moving closer and seeing the hand that made it created another entry into the piece for me. It's rare that something can hold me on technical prowess alone so luckily I find more in this work :).

Thanks for commenting, this is what I was hoping to glean from the blog, I love to hear what people are drawn too, what they they think deserves it's status as art of the day and more. Keep it up!