6 March – 21 April 2013
South Galleries, Bermondsey
‘Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration’, is a touring exhibition of the artist's graphic oeuvre, curated and organised by the Parrish Art Museum, USA. Close made his first print in 1972 and, since then, has tirelessly explored the possibilities and limits of the print medium. Although Close is best known for his meticulous, large-scale paintings, his prints are equally time consuming and, unusually, they can often take longer to complete than a painting. The 150-plus works in this exhibition included a comprehensive survey of his career, including copper-plate engravings, woodcuts, reduction linocuts, aquatints, etchings, mezzotints, pulp paper works and tapestries.
Close makes pictures of faces, often recycling images of his family and friends such as composer Philip Glass or artists Keith Hollingworth, Alex Katz and Lucas Samaras, as well as self-portraits. These images derive from an initial photograph where Close has placed the sitter very close to the camera lens in order to create a reduced depth of field. This focal variation, described by the artist as ‘a sharp focus data within a sandwich of blur’, makes the faces seem unfamiliar and impersonal, even though they are presented in extreme close-up. Each image is then built up through a series of incremental, abstract marks, irregular in length and density, applied in various ways such as a brushstroke, dot, dash, thumb print, threaded knot or particle of paper. This wealth of incidental surface activity coalesces into a coherent representational image and Close is adept at exploiting the specific tendencies of each print medium – whether it be the complex, reverse compositional build up of reduction linocut (Lucas, 1988), the uncontrollable nature of sculptural pulp paper particles (Self-Portrait/Pulp, 2001) or the antiquated method of mezzotint that has not been widely used for 100 years (Keith/Mezzotint, 1972) – to further the complexity of the image.
Close's print-making methods are truly collaborative, involving a process of experimentation and ingenious problem-solving with expert printmakers around the world. Like a composition that can be rescored for different instruments, Close finds radically different solutions to the same image through a process of lengthy experimentation, embracing accidents and mistakes that can take the work in unexpected new directions. This process encapsulates the artist's working methodology whereby ‘ideas are generated by activity’ in a process-led method of subtraction, adding and reversal in order to create new forms of visual perception within his work. This aspect of Close's work was highlighted in the exhibition by the inclusion of proofs from different stages of the printing process which clearly describe the genesis of the final work.
Celebrating Close's 40+ year long fascination with printmaking and reflecting all the key phases of his career, this exhibition was curated and organised by Terrie Sultan, Director of the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York in close collaboration with the artist.
Chuck Close was born in 1940 in Monroe, Washington and lives and works in New York City and Long Island. He has had numerous retrospective exhibitions such as a touring show at four venues (1980-1981) including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; a show that travelled in Germany and France which was staged at Lenbachhaus, Munich (1994); an exhibition at MoMA, New York (1998-1999) that then 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); the exhibition ‘Chuck Close: Self Portraits 1967-2005’, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2005) was also presented at 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, Kassel (1972 and 1977), The Whitney Biennial, New York (1969, 1972, 1977, 1979, 1991), the Venice Biennale (1993, 1995, 2003) and the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (1995-1996).