Photograph, presence, and physicality in the work of Vija Celmins
Alligood, Dustin Chad
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This text treats the drawings, paintings, and prints of Latvian-born American artist Vija Celmins as a systematic engagement with the embattled ideal of the photograph. The themes that dominate her artistic output—the sea, the sky, and the spider web; treated in chapters two, three, and four respectively—will be the structure around which this text attempts to grapple with the foundational questions posed by her pictures and their engagement with photography. Chapter two addresses the ways in which the historical paradigms of landscape and the sublime may be present in Celmins’s work. Chapter three examines the complex rhetorics of presence and absence engendered by the highly articulated physicality of her images. Chapter four attends to Celmins’s possibly embedded citation of the formal structures of the grid and perspective.