New York

Vija Celmins

McKee Gallery

In the ’60s Vija Celmins was known for her paintings of everyday settings with eerie, not quite hidden agendas—cars with shadowy drivers slumped over the wheel, bomber airplanes in flight, the blinding headlights of oncoming trucks. Her work didn’t fit neatly into any existing categories, although it had a certain amount in common with the distressed realism of early Gerhard Richter. Like Richter, Celmins devised weirdly faithful facsimiles of disordered, uncontrollable things, knowing full well that to give them a design, borders, and particular colors was an act of riveting hopelessness.

This was Celmins’ first show of paintings since the late ’60s, when she began to concentrate on graphite portraits of remote natural locales and painted wood objects. But while she has reverted to an earlier medium, her subject matter—starry blue-black skies, aerial views of choppy seas, pale lunar

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