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Chuck Close

 (born 1940)
Chuck Close is active/lives in New York.  Chuck Close is known for photo-grid real portrait, figure.

Chuck Close

    KLOCE   speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Chuck Close
Born in Monroe, Washington, Chuck Close is one of the top names associated with both Pop Art and Photo-Realism. He is known for his black and white grid face portraits, "heads" of people's faces that are not idealized, and since the late 1960s has been a mainstay of the contemporary art scene.

He earned B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees with highest honors from Yale University and spent 1964 to 1965 in Austria on a Fulbright Scholarship. He taught briefly at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and in 1967 moved to New York where to 1971 he taught at the School of Visual Arts. He married Leslie Rose, a landscape historian, and they have daughters, Georgia and Maggie.

Close became an admirer of Abstract Expressionists Mark Rothco, Jackson Pollock, and especially Willem de Kooning, but decided he could only do weak impersonations of their work. He followed his own desire to make original forms, to paint people the way a camera sees them, and he became the only one of his New York abstract artist circle using realistic images.

At first, he rejected color and the sensual qualities of paint and restricted himself to minimal elements of diluted black water-based acrylic paint, systematically applying it square by square to a grid. He based his work on photos he took of himself and his friends and would identify the painting only by the first name of the sitter.

In the 1970s, he experimented with collage and color, airbrushing acrylic paint and simulating the mechanical process of color-photo printing.

In 1988, he suffered the collapse of a blood vessel in his spinal column, which left him paralyzed from the waist down and confined him to a wheelchair. But within a year, he resumed painting with brushes strapped to his right hand. He brings his subjects to his photo studio in SoHo where he makes large polaroids and then has an assistant place clear acetate and draws a grid. He works from the upper left corner systematically across the surface. He is a strong family man who tries to avoid celebrity status and celebrity portraits. He is adamant about keeping his work affordable for ordinary collectors.

His first retrospective was in 1981 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and in 1998, another one was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Matthew Baigell, "Dictionary of American Art"

Biography from
If any one artist's work is a variation on a theme, then it is that of Chuck Close, who has been painting portraits with a passion since the late 1960s.

"I have never wanted to paint anything else," said Close at the opening of an important retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York at the end of February.

New York is Close territory.  He moved to the city in 1967 along with a group of artists of his generation---Richard Serra, Nancy Graves, and Brice Marden---who had been in his class at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Close, who photographs his subjects and then works from the print, uses people 'close' to him as his subjects - his family, friends, and colleagues.  The New York Museum of Modern Art exhibition, which began and ended with a self-portrait, was arranged in chronological order.

It led viewers through 17 years and 90 examples of Close's work, including people he was involved with in the New York art world.  From his first works in gray and white to the painterly, colorful oils of the '90s, Close's faces stared out of their oversized canvases in an eerie way.  The more recent portraits remind one of images frozen on a color television.

Close's world is one of meticulous technique and unwavering hard work.

In this exhibition, all the paintings were done on grids with his work built from units. As Close says, this structural approach to a painting is a product of his nature: "I really need to break things down to a manageable and solvable problem. My work has always been driven by self-imposed limitations."

This constancy and the fact that Close has never strayed from the path of portraiture led a critic who has been following his work since the '70s to remark that the artist's work still "breathes the air of pictorial tedium."

But Close's work is highly popular as well.  Explained in his own words: "We all share a common knowledge and interest in faces.  We all care a lot about faces." The oversized heads, with occasionally bulging eyes, stare out of their canvases with a sort of detached presence, which remains constant as one follows the transitions in technique.  The exhibition curator, Robert Storr, spoke of Close's paintings as having a literal texture, a skin of their own; in some, it is finger-painting over the painter's grandmother-in-law's or composer Philip Glass's face, in others, a symmetrical pointillism.

A serious illness in late 1988 and his return to painting produced portraits that are far more colorful and looser than his former work.  Close said in a recent interview in The New York Times Magazine: "My new portraits have a celebratory aspect that wasn't there before ... because I feel so happy that I was able to get back to work."

Once one accepts the repetition and overwhelming painstaking technique, Close's more recent work especially draws the viewer into his kaleidoscopic world of portraits.

Exhibition review, 1999, at New York's Museum of Modern Art until May 26, after which it will travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (June 20-Sept. 13); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington (Oct. 15-Jan. 10, 1999) and the Seattle Art Museum (Feb. 18-May 9, 1999).

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About  Chuck Close

Born:  1940 - Monroe, Washington
Known for:  photo-grid real portrait, figure