After relocating to Indianapolis from wartime Latvia at the age of ten, Vija Celmins began attending elementary school there before she could speak or write English and, as a result, spent much of her time in class drawing. In 1955 she enrolled in a local art school, making occasional trips to New York to see the work of the Abstract Expressionists. Accepted at a prestigious summer program at Yale University, Celmins befriended other young artists, including Chuck Close and Brice Marden, and fully devoted herself to the study of art.
After abandoning her early painterly style, Celmins began making images based on her growing collection of newspaper clippings and photographs, sometimes combining or juxtaposing them in a single work. She eventually developed a group of recurring themes that included infinitely vast natural spaces such as ocean and lunar surfaces, deserts, and starry-night skies that can be related to both the allover compositions of Abstract Expressionism and the implied flatness of Minimalist abstraction. She returns frequently to these motifs, reworking them over long periods of time and in a variety of mediums, with the resulting images marked by enigmatic, contemplative effects.
An interest in mark-making and the gradual and meticulous buildup of an image dominate Celmins's work. This concern is evident in paintings made via many rounds of painting and sanding, drawings made of innumerable pencil marks, as well as in her prints, which she began creating in earnest at the invitation of Tamarind Lithography Workshop in 1970. Gravitating toward labor-intensive mediums such as mezzotint or approaching techniques such as woodcut with a rarely found intricacy, as seen here, Celmins exploits the physicality of the printmaking process to suit her vision. She has made approximately forty-five editions to date.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 236.