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Vija Celmins

Ocean Surface Woodcut



Vija Celmins (1938-)


Ocean Surface Woodcut






Sheet: 19 3/8 × 15 1/2 in. (49.2 × 39.4 cm) Image: 8 13/16 × 11 15/16 in. (22.4 × 30.3 cm)

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Publication information

Printed by The Grenfell Press

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Print Committee

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Since the late 1960s, Vija Celmins has returned to the subject of the ocean time and again. In Ocean Surface Woodcut, Celmins separates the subject from its usual narrative associations, objectively recording the waves with precise calibrations of weight, shape, and texture. The surface of the ocean here is neutral, neither stormy nor serene. There are no boats to estimate the expanse of the depicted area and no horizon line fixes the water in a physical place. Like many of Celmins’s subjects, the image here grows progressively elusive with extended viewing. Celmins has described her process as involving “. . .a kind of rigorous building, and letting the material just be the material. Letting the image be more and more like an armature. In some [works] the image is almost nothing. . .For some reason I’m able to do that over and over again without getting bored.”