Chuck Close

Chuck Close standing with his portrait of Philip Glass, called “Phil” from 1969

When considering Photorealism or the Hyperrealism movement, we must pause for Chuck Close, who has an important position in its history. In the late 1960s, he burst onto the New York City art scene with a series of immense black and white portraits of fellow artists who he either knew or admired. Today’s featured image of the composer Philip Glass — who is known throughout the world for his distinctive minimalist compositions — is from this collection.

Chuck Close’s portraits share photographic elements I’ve spoken about previously, primarily in the work of Richard Avedon. Notice the white background and the lack of color. There is a directness to the expression, a casualness about the personal appearance that makes one wonder if the subject was simply caught unawares or, as one might ask now, “Is he on the spectrum?” Perhaps, perhaps not, but he doesn’t bow to societal expectations, nor is he the customary subject of monumental art.

Make no mistake. These are not photographs. Close’s portraits were created using diluted acrylics, and an airbrush carefully crafted one square at a time. Many contemporary artists, working in similar styles, admit to using his technique of breaking a photograph into small grids and enlarging and transferring the image by carefully expanding each grid. A constant innovator, the process, which appeared seamless in his early pictures, came to dominate his late 1990s work. Since then he has moved onto printmaking and tapestries.

I must admit his images from the late 1960s are my favorites. I feel like I knew these guys, or others very much like them. They are archetypes for me, larger than life in both feel and size.

There is much more I could say about Chuck Close, about his continuing to work, despite immense physical handicaps, which rather than limiting, have pushed him to grow and innovate as an artist. He is an inspiring and compelling figure and I invite you to learn more. The following link will take you to an hour-long documentary from 1998 on his working techniques.  CLICK HERE

I encourage you to get to know him and his works, which brings us to the second link. Familiarity with Chuck Close’s work will enrich your experience of future featured artists who work in the photorealistic style. CLICK HERE

Today’s Music Selection: Morning Passages by Philip Glass


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