Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with those affected by generations of structural violence. You can help »

The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 19-JAN 20

All Issues
DEC 19-JAN 20 Issue
ArtSeen

To Fix the Image in Memory

For Vija Celmins

Vija Celmins, <em>Envelope </em>, 1964, Oil on canvas, 16.5 x 18 in. Collection of Helen and Charles Schwab. © Vija Celmins / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Vija Celmins, Envelope , 1964, Oil on canvas, 16.5 x 18 in. Collection of Helen and Charles Schwab. © Vija Celmins / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

New York City
The Met Breuer
September 24, 2019 – January 12, 2020

An opened envelope with a life-sized anxiety.

Who was it that said, Cézanne’s apple is like the moon;

                                                                     There’s a hidden side?



All past episodes, they’re falling like shadows in the sky.

Tinkering at close proximity to the remarkable scale of gray.

                              Unthreatened hand with gun in dead profile,

                Gently clicking the trigger of a familiar revolver

                              From the right side of the matter.

                              We’re facing death without fear.

                Disappearance of faces necessary in this field of vision.



How time permits the arrival of a ghost train

In this terrific black and white meridian! Somewhere else, someone is

Congruously finding solace in the tender heat of a hot plate in a lonely night.



How can a concentration of such modesty be so supreme in its grandeur?

         A slight alterity at the edge of the tabletop feeds the unexpected life.

        How does the skin of a painting get its nutrition? From dry to wet,

        The climax’s expedient tactility demands human warmth.



Take notes my friend with this titanic pencil.

Then try to erase with an equally gigantic erasure.

                                     1965 was a declarative year.

                                     Human calamity produces

Epic proportion of endless destructions carved forever in our memory.

Calm flying fortress, too busy with a particular agenda, ceased to notice

                                     The porcelain sea, especially with its supple radiant,

Miraculous variant of tonality, embodied in the rolling waves that steer

Your attention to the distant night sky that has been there a billion years,

                                     Yet it remains constant for our sake of stability.



                American pragmatism is partially in debt to Darwin’s

                On Origin of Species. Concentric bearing, cracked desert, moon,

                Ocean of temper, ocean of fierce unpredictability.

                Galaxy of enigma, double Coma Berenices,

                Barely responsible for the depth and serenity of human soul.

                We’re far apart as beings, perhaps from here to eternity.


Vija Celmins, <em>Gun with Hand #1</em>, 1964, Oil on canvas, 24.5 x 34.5 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Edward R. Broida in honor of John Elderfield. © Vija Celmins / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Vija Celmins, Gun with Hand #1, 1964, Oil on canvas, 24.5 x 34.5 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Edward R. Broida in honor of John Elderfield. © Vija Celmins / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Vija Celmins, <em>Darwin</em>, 2008–2010,  Oil on canvas, 14 x 20 in. Private collection. © Vija Celmins / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Vija Celmins, Darwin, 2008–2010, Oil on canvas, 14 x 20 in. Private collection. © Vija Celmins / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Contributor

Phong Bui

Phong H. Bui is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.

close

The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 19-JAN 20

All Issues