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Vija Celmins, Untitled (Falling Star), 2016, oil on canvas, 18 × 13 1/8".

Vija Celmins

Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins, Untitled (Falling Star), 2016, oil on canvas, 18 × 13 1/8".

In college, I kept a postcard of a Vija Celmins’s graphite wavescape taped to my door. In part, I missed the ocean, but it was also a reminder that the things you love should be done well, and with a care that might even border on obsession. (It’s no surprise to learn that a copy of painter Ad Reinhardt’s 1953 article “Twelve Rules for a New Academy,” with its disciplined promotion of “pure” painting and disavowal of expression, is pinned to Celmins’s studio wall.) And at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s inaugural downtown exhibition in 2015, Celmins’s stark, realist painting of a heater glowing red on a gray ground, which she made in graduate school at University of California, Los Angeles, in 1964, was my favorite work. That canvas referenced a hybrid Pop/Minimalism, humble conditions (an object from her studio), burning ambition, and Manet’s reinvention of the still life

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