The remarkable career of artist Chuck Close extends beyond his completed works of art. More than just a painter, photographer, and printmaker, Close is a builder who, in his words, builds “painting experiences for the viewer.” 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.
Almost all of Close’s work is based on the use of a grid as an underlying basis for the representation of an image. This simple but surprisingly versatile structure provides the means for “a creative process that could be interrupted repeatedly without…damaging the final product, in which the segmented structure was never intended to be disguised.” It is important to note that none of Close’s images are created digitally or photo-mechanically. While it is tempting to read his gridded details as digital integers, all his work is made the old-fashioned way—by hand.
Close’s paintings are labor intensive and time consuming, and his prints are more so. While a painting can occupy Close for many months, it is not unusual for one print to take upward of two years to complete. Close has complete respect for, and trust in, the technical processes—and the collaboration with master printers—essential to the creation of his prints. The creative process is as important to Close as the finished product. “Process and collaboration” are two words that are essential to any conversation about Close’s prints.
For more than five decades, Close has captured his friends and family in portraits that are as abstract as they are realistic, executed in a diverse range of media and techniques. The vehicles for Close’s mark-making range from oil paint, airbrush, and finger printing, to paper pulp, colored pencil, and photography—including the Daguerreotype, which, like the artist’s jacquard tapestries, revived a centuries-old-tradition, propelling an antiquated technique into the modern era.
Chuck Close (b. 1940, Monroe, Washington) has been the subject of over 200 solo exhibitions in more than 20 countries, including major exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, and most recently, at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Close has also participated in nearly 800 group exhibitions.
An award-winning artist, Mr. Close was presented with the prestigious National Medal of Arts by President Clinton in 2000.
In 1988 Mr. Close was paralyzed following a rare spinal artery collapse. He continues to paint using a brush-holding device strapped to his wrist and forearm.
Mr. Close studied at the University of Washington School of Art (B.A., 1962) and at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture (B.F.A., 1963; M.F.A., 1964), receiving honorary degrees from both of his alma maters as well as 20 other institutions.
Close is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has served on the board of many arts organizations and was recently appointed by President Obama to serve on The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The artist, who painted President Clinton in, 2006, also recently photographed President Obama.