Untitled (Web 3)
Edition of 65
Image size: 15 x 19 inches (38.1 x 48.3 cm)
Paper size: 21 x 24 1/2 inches (53.3 x 62.2 cm)
Signed and dated lower right, numbered lower left in graphite
Vija Celmins’ “Untitled (Web 3)” is a drypoint and etching of a spider’s web. Its imagery is sourced from a found photograph, not from direct observation of nature. The question of the ‘original’ image (is it the spider’s web, the photo of the web and/or the work of art?) is furthered by the artist’s ambiguity, reusing photographic sources across numerous works of art, and creating variations on a theme. As for the process of this imagery, Celmins built it up in layers, and then did as much with erasure (drawing in reverse). The paper gets utilized as part of the imagery as brighter white areas of the web structure highlight the radiating strands of the web. Explaining how important printmaking is for her practice and its effect on her charcoal drawings of similar web imagery, Celmins stated, “I believe working on the mezzotint, which I found to be very bizarre at first – working from black to white – influenced all those charcoal drawings.”
The curator, Samantha Rippner, wrote of Celmins’ introduction of the web into her restricted range of imagery that, “Celmins’s webs arrive absent their makers: no obvious signs of life or its intrinsic expressiveness are visible. Yet we are left, ironically, to contemplate the product of a painstaking effort – by both the spider and the artist. This is because Celmins does not imbue the spider with iconographical significance, as other artists have done. She takes a more pragmatic approach, identifying with it as a fellow builder of structures that, although possessing an inherent constancy, are each subtly different.” (Samantha Rippner, “The Prints of Vija Celmins,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2002.)
Understanding the gestural potential of mark-making, Celmins subjects her media to scrutiny, considering their various effects and qualities, as well as feeding off the technical possibilities of printmaking. The physical construction of the work figures equally to the structure of the representational subject matter, itself. The question of potential meaning (social, metaphorical, personal or otherwise) hovers with the delicate strength of the spider’s web.