Chuck Close is one of the most influential American figurative painters of our day, and has focused his work, since the 1960’s, solely on portraiture, employing all the techniques of printing and of reproduction possible: painting, photography, silkscreen, lithograph, engraving, collage, etc. His models are the members of his “family”—his friends and artists, or himself, whom he represents in frontal close-ups in large vertical formats.
For his second solo-show at galerie Xippas, Chuck Close presents an ensemble of original Polaroid prints, each one of which is a unique piece. The Polaroids are a succinct body of self-portraits taken over the past twenty-five years, as well as riveting portraits of his close friends: Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Roy Lichtenstein.
Chuck Close uses photography as a means for the realization of his painted portraits. The photographic portrait is transformed into a “maquette,” which is then painted, square by meticulous square into the finished work. The resulting paintings are often gigantic and the details are rendered in astonishing minuteness; seen from afar, these paintings are strikingly photographic, hyper-realistic, whereas up-close, they are a multitude of colored patches, a labyrinth of abstract patterns, like a pixilated screen. The human face is treated like a map whose topography is unilaterally interesting—no specific “feature” is privileged by special attention. Close’s interest in detail led him to use cameras with increasingly large formats, as in the Polaroids here present, whose large format allows Close to capture the tiniest details and imperfections of his sitters’ face, producing images that are often “unforgiving”.
Far from a simple tool, photography in its own right plays an essential role in Chuck Close’s oeuvre: as Close affirms in his own words “Almost everything that happens in my work is influenced by printed images”.
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. He is represented by Pace / MacGill in New York.
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