Sep 19, 2011

PROFILE | Chuck Close

Chuck Close, Big Self-Portrait, Acrylic on canvas, 107 1/2 x 83 1/2", 1967-68.
 "I am going for a level of perfection that is only mine... most of the pleasure is in getting the last little piece perfect."
               -Chuck Close
This quote, which is what a viewer of his website will first see, alone shows the absolute dedication, intense concentration, not to mention immense patience that painter and printmaker Chuck Close has in his work. Close is a man who does his art the old fashioned way. He works with his tools as an artist to their full extent and has an immeasurable appreciation for the technical aspects of his processes. While a viewer could be bamboozled into assuming that Close's works are completely digitalized, there is nothing digital about it.

As he puts it best himself, "Some people wonder whether what I do is inspired by a computer and whether or not that kind of imaging is a part of what makes this work contemporary. I absolutely hate technology, and I'm computer illiterate, and I never use any labor-saving devices although I'm not convinced that a computer is a labor saving device." Close can manipulate shapes and colors with the most precise attention to detail. His grid-like portraits contain multiple layers of paint and each layer is generally compiled of hand-picked arbitrary colors so that with each layer it adds something new and different. Each of his works can consume his time anywhere from a few months to a few years.
Chuck Close, Self-Portrait, Oil on canvas, 102 x 84 1/2", 2004-5

In an interview on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert jokingly said that "finally there was an artist who could truly paint his balls actual size." He was referring to the colossal size that Close uses for his portraits. Close said that he made his paintings on such a giant scale because " the bigger they are, the longer they take to walk past and therefore the harder they are to ignore." Close also stated that one row of the grid-like compositions can take an entire day to finish, but with each box he finishes he feels satisfaction instead of having to wait until the entire portrait is complete. As astounding as his work already is there is something more profound that his viewers should be aware of. Not only does Close have dyslexia, which is one of the reasons people discouraged him from attempting to go to college, but he also contracted a severe spinal infection in 1988. It rendered Close a quadriplegic and he was remarkably able to reteach himself how to use his hands again, which actually resulted in his methodology of painting now. Also during his Colbert Report interview Close stated that he has another learning disability called prosopagnosia which he playfully called "face blindness". It is the inability to recognize/identify familiar faces. Does anyone see the awesome irony here?! Close does portraits when he cannot recognize the actual people he is painting! It's extraordinary. Also what one might find interesting is the fact that because of the size and abstract nature of his art it becomes more hyper real from a distance, yet the intricacy of the individual grids demands attention as well. His artwork is one that can be appreciated for both the simplicity and the complexity in the same instance. Close is an artist whos works will be recognized for years to come.

-Lucretia Long


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