Entries in Vija Celmins (1)


March, 2011 Chelsea Artwalk

There are several shows in Chelsea that will be of interest to people with a more scientific bent. To start with, Jaq Chartier has a beautiful and very interesting installation at Morgan Lehman. She works with rows of inks, usually deeply saturated, from her time doing color tests for an acrylic paint company. Her work stands somewhere between art and science, resembling DNA gel electrophoresis or the result of a high-throughput assay procedure. The square ones also allude to Jennifer Bartlett's gridded panels, mentioned in the last Chelsea artwalk.

The problem some artists have when merging art and science is that one or the other gets short shrift. Sometimes it's the artistic merit that goes, and sometimes the science appears deeply misinterpreted. Chartier manages to lose nothing of artistic value: her paintings stand on their own as abstract works, whether or not one knows anything of the scientific processes to which she alludes, and coming from a background in color testing, the science comes through clearly as well.

These are some of the strongest works I've seen in a long time.

For works by a more established artist, there is an ethereally beautiful show of prints and drawings by Vija Celmins at Senior & Shopmaker. Celmins is best known for finely detailed reproductions of the night sky or seascapes. She also gives us hazy images of Saturn, and a beautiful etching of an Earth globe, in a 19th century style. Once again, her work is a seamless merging of art and science, in her case the science of sheer physical observation of the natural world. Her reproductions of the night sky capture the way it looks in a telescope better than any artist I know, but her pieces always retain enough of the artist's hand to make them breathtaking works in their own right.

In the last Chelsea Art Walk I mentioned works by Tara Donovan. She has another, larger piece at Pace now on view, a large, quasi-crystalline, mineralistic construction of linked and nested spheres, made out of folded, conical sections of mylar. It's an extraordinary piece, beautiful both from a distance and close-up. As you approach, the reflective properties of the mylar take over in each of the conical sections that make up the spheres. They take on an otherworldly, almost floral appearance.

A number of large, digitally enhanced color photos of Earth the planets and Sun make up a more plainly scientific show by Michael Benson at Hasted Kraeutler. It perhaps strays a bit too far from sheer artistic quality to be considered a great marriage of art and science, yet for all that the photos are impressive and beautiful, some of the best executed of their kind. They are great teaching material and would be fantastic in a planetarium or science center.

Finally there is a single artwork in Dario Robleto's show at D'Amelio-Terras: a print titled "Candles Un-burn, Suns Un-shine, Death Un-dies" that works as a Hubble deep-field view of the galaxies. In fact it's a digitally constructed image made up of stage lights from album covers. The rest of Robleto's work has a wonderful graphic sensibility, using juxtapositions of anonymized advertising iconography in interesting and beautiful ways. It's worth a look on its own.

(Click on any of the images for enlargements. As always, the linked gallery webpages will tend to have further information about the artists and exhibitions).