Title: Dry Point Ocean
Medium: Lithograph. 1983
Today, people think of Vija Celmins as a New York artist; however, she was based in Los Angeles from 1963 to 1981. She came to Los Angeles to pursue her MFA at UCLA because UCLA offered her a scholarship. Celmins settled in Venice, just as other artists were also starting to discover this bohemian neighborhood, and became acquainted with Ed Moses, Ken Price and Tony Berlant. At this time, the L.A. art scene was very much a men’s club; women artists were scarce and not especially welcome, but according to Tony Berlant, “Vija was highly respected from Day One, by everybody . . . . It’s not that she thought she was as good as the men. She thought she was better.”
Celmins became an art superstar by creating highly-rendered drawings based on a photograph that captures a surface, like an ocean, as seen here. Her intention is not to copy the photograph but to ”reinvent it” with as little feeling as possible. Using graphite, she slowly builds the image beginning at the bottom right corner and moving up and across. The image fills the paper from edge to edge with no horizon line and no center — a small patch of ocean water that is in motion yet somehow very still.