LOS ANGELES, CA.- Los Angeles Modern Auctions
announced the recent discovery of a Vija Celmins oil on canvas, Untitled (Knife and Dish), from 1964. This formative work is being sold by the original owners and will be offered for the first time on May 19, 2013 in LAMAs Modern Art & Design Auction.
Few other works are publicly known to exist from this short-lived, transitional period in 1964, the beginning of her contemporary art career. Similar works from this time are in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
In 2011, LACMA and the Menil Collection co-organized the landmark exhibition, Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964-1966, which showcased 18 works from this pivotal period. According to Department Head and Curator of Contemporary Art at LACMA, Franklin Sirmans,
it was between 1964 and 1966, before [Celmins] was thirty years old, that she created some of her most important pieces.
1964, The Breakthrough:
When I came to L.A., I thought it was a new beginning, Celmins stated when describing her move from Indiana to Los Angeles in 1962 to begin her MFA at UCLA. From her studio at 701 Venice Blvd., Celmins purged herself from what she knew Abstract Expressionism, specifically the influences of Gorky and de Kooning in hopes of finding her own artistic voice. In 1964, Celmins chose to venture into a minimal, almost primitive style, painting still lifes of common objects in her studio: a space heater, a fan, a lamp, eggs on a hot plate, cups, spoons, and forks. Painting these everyday objects, cloaked in muted grays, served as a way for Celmins to stop thinking and inventing; this was a period for her to revitalize her work and while doing so, she ultimately broke through to create a form of art that was entirely her own.
Celmins describes the transition of her work in 1964
in an interview with Chuck Close:
I decided to go back to looking at something outside of myself. I was going back to what I thought was this basic, stupid painting. You know: theres the surface, theres me, theres my hand. Theres my eye, I paint. I dont embellish anymore, I dont compose, and I dont jazz up the colour.