Since the late 1960s Chuck Close has been concentrating on portraiture and the human face in painting and photography and is one of the most celebrated artists working today. Close often takes his family and friends as models, making monumental and classical works that are both bold in their simplicity as well as intangible, since the images appear as if they have been viewed through a thick layer of glass or are rippling on the surface of water. In this way, the subjects of his paintings can seem like apparitions, dissolving and resolving when viewed from different distances.
Although Close has employed various painterly styles throughout his career, including an intense neo-realism in the 1970s and a shadowy pointillisme in the 1980s, he is perhaps best known for his more recent works which are made up from a shimmering, fragile grid set on the diagonal. Close’s paintings are all-over images where the background of the picture – the negative space – is as important as the face itself and one cannot exist without the other. Likewise, in Close’s daguerreotype photographs, the background defines the limit of the image plane as well as the outline of the subject, with the inky pitch-black setting off the light, reflective quality of the subject’s face. Close’s method of painting is always indexical, an incremental process whereby associative colours and shapes build up a pictorial syntax and a recognisable figurative whole. Warm colours are set against cold, circles against squares and the organising principles of the grid are constantly broken by minute areas of expressive abstraction.
Chuck Close was born in 1940 in Monroe, Washington and lives and works in New York City and Long Island. He has had several retrospective touring exhibitions which include; a touring show at four venues (1980-1981) including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; a touring show that travelled in Germany and France which included Lenbachhaus, Munich (1994); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1998-1999) that travelled to four venues, closing at the Hayward Gallery, London (1999); ‘Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration’ the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2004); ‘Chuck Close: Self Portraits 1967-2005’ Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2005) and travelled to SF MOMA (2006), High Museum, Atlanta (2006) and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (2006); ‘Chuck Close: A Couple of Ways of Doing Something’ Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2007), Tacoma Art Museum, Washington and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago (2008), Louisiana Art and Science Museum, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State University Park, Austin Museum of Art Austin, Texas (2009), Ball State University Museum of Art, Muncie, Indiana: Joseloff Gallery, University of Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut (2010) and Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas (2011); ‘Chuck Close: Seven Portraits Group’, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (2008). Group exhibitions include; Documenta V and VI (1972 and 1977), The Whitney Biennial (1969, 1972, 1977, 1979, 1991), the Venice Biennale (1993, 1995, 2003) and the Carnegie International (1995-1996).