Chuck Close (b. 1940, Monroe, WA) and his portraits are instantly recognizable. With his self-portraits hanging in museums nationwide, we have become familiar not only with his face and various pairs of glasses, but with his distinctive technique. His iconic large-scale close-ups, subject matter being the faces of his family, friends, artists, and self, are made up of tiny mosaic-like squares. Employing a gridded photograph and paint, Close blurs the lines between photography and painting, and between Realism and Conceptualism, while keeping his portraits in sharp focus.
Throughout his artistic career, Close has gone back and forth in self-imposed palette limitations. In his 1968 “Self Portrait,” he strictly adhered to black and white. Several years later, the pencil and ink “Robert/104,072” (1973-4) of MOMA’s collection, was made of 104,072 separate color squares.
Other techniques include the use of fingerprint marks, pulp paper, watercolor, tapestries based on Polaroids, and of course printmaking.
The cover of this issue is a reproduction of “John,” 1998, a 126-color silkscreen portrait of the artist John Chamberlain that took two years to complete. In a 2003 interview with Parrish Art Museum Director Terrie Sultan, Close, after expressing his previous concern on using silkscreen, with its connection to Pop, said, “A lot of my misgivings about silkscreen vanished when I saw that silkscreen didn’t have to be flat and opaque, that it was possible to get tremendous watery transparencies, and to make something that had an open, brushy quality where other colors flickered through. I realized a silkscreen could have the spirit and touch of the paintings.” With the Parrish Art Museum as home base, “John” has been around the world, exhibited in 2003 at the Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, and currently at the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, Austria.
While maintaining a studio in New York, Close has lived in Bridgehampton since the ’70s. He has had more than 200 solo exhibitions in more than 20 countries, including major retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid and at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. In 2000, President Clinton presented him with the prestigious National Medal of Arts. More recently he was appointed by President Obama to serve on The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. This level of recognition during an artist’s lifetime is remarkable. It seems noteworthy to mention that with this degree of achievement, Close still makes regular appearances at various museum gala after-parties, simultaneously indicating the breadth of his support for the arts and allowing for a fresh generation of faces to become acquainted with his.