Chuck Close is celebrated as one of the most influential figurative painters of our time. Since the 60’s, his work has focused exclusively on portraiture using all available techniques for print and reproduction: painting, photography, silkscreen, lithography, printing, engraving, collage, etc. The models he uses are family members, friends or fellow artists, represented full frontally, in close-up and in very large formats.
Chuck Close began using photography as a visual support for his painted portraits. The photographic portraits are squared up beforehand and produced square by square in order to obtain incredibly detailed gigantic pictures, which, seen from a distance present great photographic fidelity, but which seen close-up represent a multitude of coloured abstract areas, giving a surface effect of ‘pixellised’ screens. The human face is considered like a map with a uniformly interesting topography, not looking to privilege one element over another. This concern for detail led him to use increasingly large cameras. Thus, he started working with a very large Polaroid camera enabling him to capture the minutest details and the slightest facial flaws of his subjects, therefore producing images often without concessions.
Highly renowned as a painter, Close is also a master printmaker, who has, over the course of more than 30 years, pushed the boundaries of traditional printmaking in remarkable ways. If Close paintings are labor intensive and time consuming, his prints are more so; while a painting can occupy him for many months, it is not unusual for one print to take upward of two years to complete. Technical processes and collaboration with master printers are both essential to the creation of his prints. Close insists on a decidedly interactive and «hands-on» approach to their creation; he carves linoleum blocks, draws on and applies acid to his etching plates, and personally directs all the intricate handwork involved in pulp-paper multiples.
Far from serving as a mechanical means to replicate his painted work, his prints – lithographs, silk-screen prints, linoleum cuts, woodcuts, etchings etc – have been an important proving ground for his artistic activity as a whole. As Close has asserted, «Virtually everything that has happened in my unique work can be traced back to the prints».
For his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Xippas, Chuck Close is presenting characteristic samples of the most well-known series of photographs and prints throughout his career, portraits of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Agnès Martin, Lucas Samaras, Philip Glass, Willem Dafoe and of himself, realised between 1996 and 1999, as well as one incredible tapestry portrait.
It is important to note that none of Close’s images is created digitally. While it is tempting to read his gridded details as digital integers, all his work is made the old-fashioned way – by hand.
Chuck Close (b. 1940, Monroe, WA) received his B.A. from the University of Washington, Seattle before studying at Yale University School of Art and Architecture (B.F.A., 1963; M.F.A. 1964).
Close’s drawings, paintings, photographs and prints have been the subject of exhibitions in more than 20 countries including three retrospective exhibitions: «Close Portraits» (1980-81) organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, with additional venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; «Chuck Close: Retrospektive» (1994) organized by the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, and later presented at the Lenbachhaus Städtische Galerie, Munich; and «Chuck Close» (1998-99) organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, with subsequent venues at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Hayward Gallery, London. Also of note is the photography exhibition «Chuck Close» (1989-90) organized by and opening at the Art Institute of Chicago; the exhibition traveled to The Friends of Photography, Ansel Adams Center, San Francisco, and a print exhibition «Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration» (2004) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. Other solo shows include «Photographs by Chuck Close» (1999), «Chuck Close» (2000-01) at the Worcester Museum of Art, and «Chuck Close Ritratti» at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.
Since 1969 Close has participated in over 400 group exhibitions of international scope, including Documenta, Kassel, Germany (1972, 1977), the Tokyo Biennale (1974), the Corcoran Gallery of Art Biennial (1975, 2001), the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial (1977, 1979, 1991), the Venice Biennale (1993, 1995), and the Carnegie International (1995-96) Chuck Close has also received a number of honorific prizes and in 1992 he was elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The Pace/MacGill gallery in New York represents him.
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain, currently dedicates him an important retrospective exhibition (6th February – 11th May), going on to be presented at the Ludwig Forum fur Internationale Kunst in Aix-la-Chapelle, Germany, from 26th May until 2nd September 2007.