Archive for February 7th, 2011

If any artist has stuck more closely to variations on a single theme than Chuck Close, I am not aware of him.  Close has had a long and illustrious career painting portraits based on the grid system often associated with photographic  pixels, taking the contents of each grid placed over a photo and transferring and expanding it in size to a corresponding grid on his canvas, to put it in simplistic terms.  Beginning early on, Close created  huge canvasses where he would capture every single detail and blemish in his subjects’ faces in an extreme photorealist manner.  These have tremendous impact when seen in person, from the massive scale as well as the ultra-clarity provided in the detail.

  But over the years he went beyond the photorealist aspect and created variations.  Instead of replicating each pixel with absolute precision, Close would use the grid to create almost abstract mosaic tiles that captured some of the color and form of the referenced grid but had their own form as well.  The self portrait shown above is such an example. He also used his thumbprints to create portraits in this manner, taking fingerpainting to new heights.  Fanny/Fingerpainting 1985, shown here, is an example.  Hard to believe that this very realistic image is built from thumbprints.

As an artist, I am most intrigued by Close’s dedication to his process and his ability to discover variation within it.  Ultimately, subject matter is not the important part of his body of work.  It is his unique process that makes his work special.  That’s something that you hope young artists realize, that it is more vital to adapt a way of painting, a process,  that meshes with the workings of your own mind than finding interesting subject matter.

There’s a lot more to say about Chuck Close than I’m saying at the moment.  For instance, how he has adapted his process to his physical limitations that resulted from a spinal blood clot in the late 80’s.  That’s a story in itself.  There’s a wealth of info on the web about the artist for those who seek more detail.

Here’s a neat promo for a show from 2009 of Close’s printwork held at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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