When one first enters the gallery that contains Chuck Close’s artwork he or she will find him or herself confronted with enormous portraits of subjects that stare straight at them. From afar some of these pieces even look like they may be enlarged photographs, but at a closer inspection one may see the time-consuming method that the artist used. One of the most distinctly unique characteristics about this artist’s work is his use of mixed media throughout all of his pieces.
Each painting shows the artist’s range of invention in etching, lithography, handmade paper, charcoal, pencil, and silkscreen only to name a few. Thus they portray a different feeling or attitude because of the creative thought process and time that went into each of them. From visiting this gallery it has become evident that Chuck Close is an artist who pushes the boundaries of traditional printmaking. Almost all of Close’s work is based on the use of a grid as a basic foundation for the production of an image.
This structure surprisingly works for each piece while still allowing each work to vary from the next. And though the appearance of some of the works may seem deceiving, none of Close’s images are created digitally or by computer. He makes each piece by hand and uses a grid to help him reach the final look he is trying to achieve. Close’s paintings are just as labor intensive and time consuming as they in fact appear.
While a painting can occupy Close for many months, it is not unusual for one print to take upward of two years to complete. Close is known to simply say that the creative process is just as important to as the finished product. One of the most noticeable paintings that caught my attention in the gallery was Close’s famous woodcut called Emma.
The small squares of brightly colored loops, dots, and lozenges give a sense of movement to the painting. It is almost like looking at a real image through a glass of water. Every part of the painting seems to move and have a reflection on it. It was not until I got closer to the painting that I saw that it was made up of complex squares with amoeba looking shapes in them. It was amazing to see the way in which all these small squares and colors collaborated together to make a very realistic image.
Emma is a successful example of Close’s ukiyo-e prints, a 300-year-old Japanese woodblock technique in which numerous separately carved blocks are fitted together to create a single image. Master printer Yasu Shibata took about three years to create this incredible duplication. The astonishment at these remarkable works did no stop just there. There was another astounding piece of a young girl that was made up of handmade paper.
The paper rose off the canvas to create a sense of depth. Once again everything looks different from far away as compared to up close. But in this moment when I first saw this piece I assumed that it was made out of pencil or charcoal because of the shadows and the realism it contained. However upon a closer inspection I noticed the small pieces of ripped paper put together to create a whole. And in the center of this room in the gallery one could see the paper that was used and the method in which it was applied.
Through further reading that was available in the gallery I found out that this is a technique in which an image is created by squeezing different shades of paper pulp through a large, complex metal stencil. This was yet another remarkable feat of Chuck Close. In a series of scribbled self-portraits the grid system is abandoned and Close used layers of different colored scribbles that, when place over each other, come together to create a representational image. They were all displayed on the wall in a progressive series showing his use of layering and different color choices for each piece.
This is another project that must have taken a lot of time because it was carefully planned out in order to make a final image that brought all the different stages together. Most importantly Close is known for his use of silk-screens. These exceptional works are recognized for their oversized scale, bright colors, and Close’s insistence on creating the stenciled image by hand, rather than by the digital process that is more commonly used. Notable examples on view include Lyle (2002), a 149-color silkscreen, and John (1998) a 126-color silkscreen that is displayed along with a series of proofs for the final print
. An enormous 1993 print of the artist Alex Katz is a prime example of experimental nature of Close’s printmaking and the process of a print turning from conception to realization. Originally intended as reduction linoleum cut, the project had multiple setbacks. When the linoleum cracked, Close and his team decided to turn the piece into a silkscreen. The process of this is hanging up for all to see. As the linoleum is whittled away print grows more and more detailed.
The final piece is a stunning, dark portrait, in which Katz’s face glows against a black background. It is obvious upon visiting the gallery that Chuck Close is no ordinary artist, but one that excels in many different kinds of media. He is very innovative and strives to make his work different from others. Close has become a pivotal artist of the 20th century by blowing the art world away with his modern twist on portraiture and use of media. His works show the many layers of intensity used, and leaves the viewer astounded by the amount of time and dedication spent on each piece. Thus making it all worth it in the end.