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Vija Celmins

WHEN ONE LOOKS AT AN artist’s portrayal of the sea, one is put in mind of what is called a marine, that category of subject matter dealing with an expanse of water so animated by light, space, texture, tone, and movement as to transmit a salty atmosphere of its own. Since the historical rise of landscape, various artists have been sensitized to the dramaturgy of the aquatic—the possibilities, not only of an unstable, but a shifting and translucent horizon—as the setting of a particular mode. To depict a liquid body, whether inviting to contemplate and travel upon or not, is to treat of sensations that are at once fluid, open, and equivocal, with hidden, deepening densities. A landlubber’s sense of form may get lost in them.

The pencil seascapes of Vija Celmins, who lives on a Pacific beach at Venice, California, do not summon up one’s conditioned responses to the marine genre, though they

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