In a dramatic switch from abstract to figurative painting, he abandoned the freedom of Abstract Expressionism in favour of more restrictive controls on both his subject matter and painting technique. Indeed, the comparison illustrates the evolution from fledgling artist to international icon. While most of his peers are in semi-retirement, Close continues to produce his portraits at an remarkable rate. He began creating photorealist portraits from photographs in the late 1960s, using a grid to map each facial detail. Since the 1960s, Close has used his inimitable style of realistic painting to portray a wide range of subjects, including friends, family, fellow artists, and himself.
The consistent photographic restrictions used to compose his reference Polaroids result in a shallow depth field, blurring certain features and exaggerating others - all of which he faithfully reproduces. All the more astonishing because, in 1988 at the supposed height of his career, Chuck Close suffered a crippling aneurysm in his spinal column. He employs it as an important compositional device to structure his image and not merely as a method for scaling up his photographic source material. He discover the technique of using grids and abstracted color to create an image that gained realistic qualities when viewed further away. While many artists, once achieving fame, commercialize their work, Close continues to evolve and to create based on his own perception of his art. After he began working with a large-format Polaroid camera, Close got interested in photographs as artifacts in their own right, rather than merely as maps of information.
Close demonstrated that he would paint again by producing his still-massive images at a passionate pace and taking his work to the next level. By then, he already had behind him 15 or 20 years of dissecting and reassembling images -- works that alert viewers to the tissue of decisions embedded in every image, no matter its source. Close threw away all of his tools and began to paint using the colors and forms which he had studied in school. The youthful tightness is still evident in the precision of his strokes but there is a new, freedom and a vibrant use of color. It is difficult to make up the face at close range, but from a distance, the different cells come together like a puzzle. As an emerging artist in the 1960's Chuck Close had grown up against the backdrop of , the first major art movement to come out of America. It is part of the series made up of artists who use self-portraiture in their work.
Motivated by the determination to paint again, he endured endless hours of physical therapy which helped him to regain some use of his hands and arms. A self-professed slob, his work is produced with the utmost precision and craftsmanship. Some critics have attacked Chuck Close due to his use of photography and his grid-oriented approach as they feel his work is too prescriptive. A younger generation of artists brought heightened scrutiny and self-consciousness to images of all kinds, especially to those showering down from the mass media. They even omit all reference to a major turning point in Close's life: the spinal blood clot that nearly killed him in 1988, and left him hospitalized for months and wheelchair-bound ever since.
From a distance it is indistinguishable from a high resolution photograph. This piece also resembles mosaics. He created it while lying on his stomach on a rolling scaffolding above the painting that was placed on the floor. Perhaps we might see in their ruptures -- a by-product of the equipment and the extreme close-ups -- some reference to the divide that Close's health crisis made in his life. This means his knowledge of art is always expanding.
His systematic approach could also be compared with the one of minimal and process artists. Chuck Close's preoccupation with the overall unity of surface is a fundamental quality that marks all his work. Compare the close-ups of the two self-portraits. It combines his long-standing interest in Abstract Impressionism and a wide range of brilliant colors, with his self-imposed rules for creating portraits. Years of experience have taught him how this 'chord' will read from a distance and how it will combine with adjacent sections to form the tones and colors of the head. Struggling with dyslexia and partial paralysis, his professional work and analytical methods became inseparable from the condition of his body. A philosophy graduate interested in theory, politics and art.
The holograms serve mainly as reminders that Close's interests do not center on realism, photo- or otherwise. His portraits are consisted of small pieces if you look closely. It is successful in all regards of his goal: to abstract a picture of a baby in a way that is both recognizable from far away and visually transformed up close. It was never a question of starting again; it was more a matter of finding a new vocabulary of marks that could express his vision within the limitations of his disability. It is painted 'with about half a teaspoon of black paint' which is thinned down to the consistency of dirty water and applied with brushes and an airbrush. His playful grids converge, when viewed from a distance, to create a powerful portrait, with an image as elusive as his earlier work. A fully illustrated catalogue will feature essays by the exhibition curators and Doug Nickel, Director of the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona.
The insouciant stare of the young man in Big Self-Portrait makes a striking counterpart to the stolid, knowing gaze of the older Close as represented in this self-portrait of 1997. Although he was painting portraits in a similar style before the 'Event', his brushwork is now less constrained by the grid and his color palette is more dynamic. It was created in monumental scale of 8 x 6 feet. Jacquard tapestry - PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York. Tragically, on December 7th 1988 he was struck by a devastating affliction that he now refers to as the 'Event' - he suffered a spinal stroke which left him paralysed from the neck down and dependant on a wheelchair for mobility.