Since 1968 Chuck Close (Monroe, United States, 1940) has been creating stunning large portraits from photographs taken of people’s faces. Close graduated from Yale University and worked as an art teacher at the University of Massachusetts. His work was first exhibited at the MOMA, New York in 1973. In 1967 Close abandons his Abstract Expressionist painting style which he inherited from his college years. In the late sixties, along with other contemporary artists he begins to subvert modern abstraction transforming it into figuration and paving the way for what is now known as Postmodernism.
Close begins to produce giant portraits in 1968 which, seen from a distance, hold a great photographic veracity. Up close, these pieces are filled with countless marks, resulting from a process seemingly abstract, neutral marks which do not show any recognisable trace of the artist. Close intensifies this dialogue between painting and photographic reproduction when, in the early seventies, he begins to paint portraits of heads in colour which imitates the process of mechanical reproduction: depositing separate layers of primary colours with considerable thoroughness and effort, until obtaining the full gamut of tones. Therefore his work highlights the absolute control of the artist, the slow and progressive realisation ruled by a great discipline.
In the Eighties, the artist seeks a more direct and physical means of creating, either through round slurry modules in various shades of grey, with which he creates a kind of substitute for the brush, or through ink finger-prints from his own fingers, achieving portraits of considerable resemblance. Close soon returns to the use of brushes and oil, given the richness and variety inherent to traditional artistic means. In 1988, Close suffers a severe paralysis, but determined to continue painting, he learns how to with a splint on his hand. The heads now become more visibly painted, which emphasises the photographic likeness and further highlights the clarity of the procedure. This exhibition explores the range of variation that has spanned Close’s paintings between 1968 and 2006 as well as his constant challenges and efforts to make the process of creating his works remain innovative and vital.
Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen (May 26 - September 2, 2007)
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