Chuck Close

S.P.III. , 2007

Four black and white Polaroid prints
162.6 × 182.9 cm

“I think I learned to present myself. I always tried to present myself relatively neutrally and flat-footedly; I tried to be as ruthless with my own image as I was with someone else’s. I celebrated my bags and wrinkles and stuff, because it’s really the most fun stuff to paint. So at least no one couldn’t say that I’d been tough on them and given myself a free ride.”

In 1979, Chuck Close was invited by Kathy Halbreich, director of the Hayden Gallery at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to use Polaroid’s large-format 20-by-24-inch camera. Working with this format changed his thinking about photography and its place in his work. He commented about this experience that, ‘It was the first time I considered myself a photographer … From that point on, I began to make photographs that deal with the kind of issues I deal with in my paintings’.

While the large and unwieldy 20-by-24-inch camera was not easy to use, Close found it liberating. As was his customary working method, Close originally intended to use these Polaroids as the basis for other works, but found instead that the Polaroids possessed sufficient presence to stand on their own as finished works. The resulting images were sometimes conceived as singular works, while others were combined into multi-image compositions.

This work shows the rare instance of Close’s choice of black-and-white Polapan film as opposed to Polacolor. In its grand scale and black/gray/white palette, it bears a strong resemblance to Close’s monochrome work in other media. It is, nonetheless, completely photographic in conception and impact.

“I think I’m having a conversation with myself in my self-portrait works… Facing death, or whatever the hell it is. I think it comes out of my diagnosis and not knowing how long I have.”

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