new-york

Vija Celmins

McKee Gallery

Encompassing ocean waves and spiderwebs, desert floors and nighttime skies, Vija Celmins’s subjects have long been immense and empyreal, and occasion equally lofty responses, inspiring purple prose from even the driest of critics—but there is nothing otherworldly about their making. These are hard-won wonders, often years in the works: canvases realized with a tiny sable brush and slow-drying alkyd oil; drawings created by the accretion of astonishingly dense, allover graphite marks or the erasure of bits of thick expanses of powdered charcoal; prints made via the difficult mezzotint process. Many of Celmins’s methods, in fact, evoke the labors of the student—copying, transcribing, repeating, deleting—which rendered this exhibition, featuring sculptures of desks, tablets, and a globe together with paintings and prints of some of the artist’s signature images, somewhat of an allegory of

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