10/13/06 - chuck close

In today's excerpt - Chuck Close (b. 1940) closely associated with the photorealstic and superrealistic genres is one of the most esteemed and influential of contemporary artists:

"On December 7, 1988 ... while attending a Gracie Mansion ceremony at which then-mayor Ed Koch and other dignitaries were honoring a group of recipients for their achievements in the arts, [Chuck] Close, one of the presenters at the dais, was gripped by intense pains in his back, chest and both arms. ... By the end of the of that night he was paralyzed. ...

"At the time of this cataclysmic, life-altering event, Close was already a well-established figure in the art world. In 1980 a large retrospective of his work was organized by the Walker Art Center and circulated to museums across the country. He had long since arrived at his distinctive theme, the epic-scale portrait, which instantly identified his work. His paintings were not so much portraits as portraits of portraits, based on highly detailed photographs of frontally posed sitters gazing stoically into his camera lens. When they began appearing in galleries and exhibitions in the late 1960s, some critics and even some fellow artists dismissed them as curious anachronisms as much for Close's singular preoccupation with the near-forgotten art of portraiture as for their obsessive realism.

"Outside the corporate boardroom or salon, the painted portrait has long been a marginal phenomenon. Painters critically esteemed for their work in this genre, realistic or otherwise, were relatively few then—and still are. Close radically helped change that perception by the force and unmistakable contemporary edge of his painting; of its present day exemplars, he is surely among the most inventive and profound. Since the advent of his giant heads in the late 1960s, some eighty models—some of them members of his family, but most his artist friends—have sat for the photographs from which the portraits derive. It was not so long ago that Close airily referred to these photographs as 'mug shots', but that raffish characterization has now given way to the loftier term 'photo-maquette.' "

Works by Chuck Close


Martin Friedman


Close Reading: Chuck Close and the Artist Portrait


Harry N. Abrams, Inc


Copyright 2005 Martin Friedman


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