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Chuck Close
Date: American, b. 1940

Chuck Close is known for his monumental portrait paintings transformed from photographs. His first large figurative painting from 1965, Big Nude, measured ten by twenty-two feet. Close has concentrated on facial portraits, of himself, friends, and family, and has throughout his career declined commissions. The confrontational scale of his colossal paintings, often as much nine feet high, forces viewers to attend to these enlarged imperfections and idiosyncrasies that individualize his subjects. The photographic realism of his paintings operates in productive tension with an emotional impact and intimacy nevertheless conveyed. Close has applied his characteristic rendering--a frontal view in close proximity--to occasional works varying from his formula, such as photocollages and photographic flower portraits from the late 1980s. His interest in working with both photography and painting has been in the process of transformation, which he describes as an "invention of means." Accordingly, because of continual experimentation, his work has never become formulaic. He has employed varying degrees of abstraction with his use of a pictorial grid, and his later work is more colorful, discontinuous, and gestural. His earlier photographs employed a 4x5 view camera and negative film; more recently he has worked with a 20x24 inch Polaroid camera. In 1984 he was invited by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to use its room-size Museum camera to produce eighty by forty inch prints.

Close was born in Monroe, Washington, and received a B.A. in 1962 from the University of Washington, Seattle, and a BFA (1963) and MFA (1964) from Yale. His honors have included a Fulbright grant for travel to Vienna, a National Endowment for the Arts grant and the International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Art. He has taught throughout the country, and has had numerous exhibitions at, among others, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Walker Art Center, and the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.

Lisa Soccio
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 212.