Chuck Close

Biography of Chuck Close

The painter Chuck Close (born 1940 in Washington, US) made a name for himself in the 1960s with his hyperrealist portraits, at a time when Abstract Expressionism was still the reigning movement. The large-scale and photo-realistic portraits were a bold statement in the American art world, and Close was spurred on to find new techniques and redefine portraiture. Until 1988, the year of what Close calls 'The Event', the grid technique he applied (drawing a grid over the photograph and then painting each square individually) was not visible to the viewer, but after a blood clot left him almost completely paralyzed (i.e. The Event), Close had to find a new way to paint and although the grid technique was still the most useful, Close was no longer able to be as precise as before the accident.

This is when Chuck Close, with the paintbrush attached to his wrist, approached each separate square with a pointillist technique, thereby not allowing the squares to perfectly blend into one another and creating a pixelated portrait. Just like the saying, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts", the subject only becomes recognizable once the viewer gains distance from the painting, with all the squares being tiny abstract paintings on their own.

The limitations of the wheelchair did not hinder Chuck Close to push the boundaries not only of painting, but foremost of printmaking. Working closely together with specialist artisans and printmakers he did not shy away from making even grander and more complex multiples. Often working with handmade paper, many multiples are stencilled portraits, and like the unique works, are made up of a very large colour palette.

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