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Artists Chuck Close
Chuck Close Photo

Chuck Close

American Painter and Photographer

Movement: Photorealism

Born: July 5, 1940 - Monroe, Washington

Chuck Close Timeline

Quotes

"I realized that to deal with your nature is also to construct a series of limitations which just don't allow you to behave the way you most naturally want to behave. So, I found it incredibly liberating to work for a long time on something even though I'm impatient. It did not seem like such a dichotomy or a denial of who I was. It seemed like I was taking care of who I was."
Chuck Close
"Photography is the easiest medium with which to be merely competent. Almost anybody can be competent. It's the hardest medium in which to have some sort of personal vision and to have a signature style."
Chuck Close
"I think I was driven to paint portraits to commit images of friends and family to memory. I have face blindness, and once a face is flattened out, I can remember it better."
Chuck Close
"Always the best time to paint is when people decide that painting is dead because the traditions and conventions are up for grabs."
Chuck Close
"I always thought that inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. You sign onto a process and see where it takes you."
Chuck Close
"What difference does it make whether you're looking at a photograph or looking at a still life in front of you? You still have to look."
Chuck Close
"You don't have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today you will do what you did yesterday, and tomorrow you will do what you did today. Eventually you will get somewhere."
Chuck Close
"A photograph doesn't gain weight or lose weight, or change from being happy to being sad. It's frozen. You can use it, then recycle it."
Chuck Close
"Ease is the enemy of the artist. When things get too easy, you're in trouble."
Chuck Close
"A face is a road map of someone's life. Without any need to amplify that or draw attention to it, there's a great deal that's communicated about who this person is and what their life experiences have been."
Chuck Close

"I'm pre-pixel. They got it from me."

Chuck Close Signature

Synopsis

Chuck Close is globally renowned for reinvigorating the art of portrait painting from the late 1960s to the present day, an era when photography had been challenging painting's former dominance in this area, and succeeding in steadily gaining critical appreciation as an artistic medium in its own right. Close emerged from the 1970s painting movement of Photorealism, also known as Super-Realism, but then moved well beyond its initially hyper-attentive rendering of a given subject to explore how methodical, system-driven portrait painting based on photography's underlying processes (over its superficial visual appearances) could suggest a wide range of artistic and philosophical concepts. In addition, Close's personal struggles with dyslexia and subsequently, partial paralysis, have suggested real-life parallels to his professional discipline, as though his methodical and yet also quite intuitive methods of painting are inseparable from his own daily reckoning with the body's own vulnerable, material condition.

Key Ideas

Photorealist painting of the 1970s celebrated the glossy, mirror-like "look" of the photograph, but after achieving that ideal, Close swiftly turned to portraiture, suggesting it as a means for exploring unsettling aspects of how self identity is always a composite and highly constructed, if not ultimately conflicted fiction.
Close's dependence on the grid as a metaphor for his analytical processes, which suggest that the "whole" is rarely more (or less) than the sum of its parts, is a conceptual equivalent for the camera's analytical, serial approach to any given subject. Every street-smart, colorful Polaroid is as much a time-based and fragmentary gesture as any more laborious stroke of the painter's brush in the cloistered studio.
Close has worked with oil and acrylic painting, photography, mezzotint printing, and various additional media. Shifting confidently from one to the other, Close suggests that his conceptual intentions are ultimately timeless, whereas his tools or materials are infinitely interchangeable. This is partly why Close's practice of portrait painting has for over forty years remained surprisingly "contemporary," even while the larger movement of Photorealism, his earliest chosen stylistic idiom, has long receded into history.
Close's slow, accumulative processes, which enlist numerous abstract color applications in the service of producing "realistic," or illusory portraits, most recently finds application in the art of modern tapestry via a highly illusionistic, computer-aided method of industrial weaving that Close favors for its ability to suggest the hyper-real appearance of 19th century glass photographs(daguerreotypes).

Biography

Chuck Close Photo

Childhood

Charles Thomas Close was born at home to Leslie and Mildred Close, a couple with a leaning toward artistic pursuits. Leslie Close was a jack-of-all-trades with a flair for craftsmanship, he built Charles his first easel. His mother was a trained pianist but unable to pursue a musical career due to financial restraints. Determined to provide her son with opportunities she herself never enjoyed, Mildred pushed Charles to take up a myriad of extracurricular activities during his school years and hired a local tutor to give him private art lessons.

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Chuck Close Biography Continues

Important Art by Chuck Close

The below artworks are the most important by Chuck Close - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Big Nude (1967)
Artwork Images

Big Nude (1967)

Artwork description & Analysis: "Big Nude" is the first painting completed in Close's signature grid process, and both its size and self-conscious title indicate its ambitious nature. Although the transferred image "reads" as a flat transcription of light and dark characteristic of a photograph, the painting's variegated brushstrokes reveal Big Nude to be more of a prototype for future development than a fully resolved picture. Poised precariously between a common studio exercise in figure drawing and a 1960s girlie magazine shoot, "Big Nude" also challenges the future of representational painting at a moment in history when the genre would seem to have long ago exhausted its potential for future development. Only the antiseptic whiteness of the canvas hints at a new approach to the figure that might perfectly marry an instant, unforgiving photographic record of a subject with the artist's reconsideration of its every component over months of studied, methodical transcription.

Acrylic on canvas - Collection Jon and Mary Shirley

Big Self-Portrait (1967-68)
Artwork Images

Big Self-Portrait (1967-68)

Artwork description & Analysis: The tentative air of experimentation that might be said to characterize Big Nude is nowhere apparent in Big Self-Portrait, a watershed painting that virtually showcases Close's unique method. Abandoning the full-body view, Close turned to one of the oldest traditions anywhere in art history, the self-portrait. Close had partially set out to refute the critic Clement Greenberg's claim that it was impossible for an "advanced" artist to work in portraiture. Closes's untraditional approach involved conceiving of and creating a unique kind of "mug shot," a black-and-white idiom that exacerbated the subject's blemishes and the original photographic distortion caused by the camera. The devotion to the idea of an unsparing, head-on view led him to refuse all commissions, as Close used only his own "mug" and that of close friends for his subjects.

Acrylic on canvas - Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Kent (1970)
Artwork Images

Kent (1970)

Artwork description & Analysis: For Kent, Close made use of preparatory drawings for the first time to explore the three-color process, an imitation, or re-employment, of the photographic dye-transfer method. By adopting a mechanical procedure and mimicking it physically, or by hand crafting what is normally carried out by the camera, Close suggests that illusion is ultimately in the eye of the beholder, whose own optical apparatus finally "completes" the picture. Although Close literally painted the same image three times, one atop the other in separate colors, he was surprised when the work ended up taking three times as long to complete. In order to facilitate the process, Close wore cellophane filters over his eyeglasses in order to view marks in one color at a time.

Acrylic on canvas - Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

More Chuck Close Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Chuck Close
Interactive chart with Chuck Close's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Sol LeWittSol LeWitt
Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning

Personal Contacts

Philip GlassPhilip Glass
Alex KatzAlex Katz

Movements

Pop ArtPop Art
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art

Influences on Artist
Chuck Close
Chuck Close
Years Worked: 1965-present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Ross BlecknerRoss Bleckner

Personal Contacts

Philip GlassPhilip Glass
Christopher FinchChristopher Finch

Movements

PhotorealismPhotorealism

Useful Resources on Chuck Close

Books

Websites

Articles

Audio

Videos

More

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Chuck Close: Life Recomended resource

By Christopher Finch

artwork

Chuck Close: Work Recomended resource

By Christopher Finch

The Portraits Speak: Chuck Close in Conversation with 27 of His Subjects

By Chuck Close, Dave Hickey, William Bartman, Joanne Kesten

More Interesting Books about Chuck Close
Chuck Close: Process and Collaboration

Chuck Close: Photo Gallery

Washington Post's overview of Chuck Close and good visual insights into his techniques

Pixels and Painting: Chuck Close and the Fragmented Image

By James Ravin and Peter Odell
Ophthalmology
August 2008

Chuck Close Recomended resource

By Phong Bui
Brooklyn Rail
June 2008

Following the Light, and Making Faces Recomended resource

By Helen A. Harrison
New York Times
February 22, 2004

The Persistence of the Portraitist

By Deborah Solomon
New York Times
February 1, 1998


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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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