Los Angeles

Vija Celmins

David Stuart Galleries

Vija Celmins in her first one-man show has produced a series of small, grey paintings of sudden moments caught by a camera, but there is a sense of something lost in the transition from photograph to painted picture. For the most part her images are of a direct kind (frozen rhinoceros, plane in midair, a second in a bombing), all of which seems to call for an equally direct technique. However, she paints with a softened, romantic stroke, which creates a sensitive surface inconsistent with the shock qualities of her realism. The greyed palette seems logical, but the painting technique does not.

Her painting seems more intrinsically her own; when Celmins creates sculpture, she often plays with different Pop and common-object ideas. For example, she has created a large sculpture of a grey pencil, and a jig-saw puzzle landscape sculpture much in keeping with some of the ideas of Jasper Johns. In addition she has made clever box sculptures shaped like houses, painted with images of destruction (bombings, fires, etc.); these are possibly the best part of the show. Of note are her grey cloud drawings, close to the recent work of Joe Goode, who, incidentally, also favors much of Jasper Johns’ wit. Miss Celmins has presented a goodly variety of ideas and techniques, all of which she has managed with competence. It will be interesting to see which, if any, she pursues further.

Susan R. Snyder