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Chuck Close Prints


Chuck Close Prints is an exhibition of 36 works drawn primarily from the collection of Sherry Hope Mallin, who began collecting them in the 1980s. Also included are several prints from the artist's collection with the addition of several prints from PaceWildenstein, and two from the Neuberger's permanent collection. The exhibition, on view at the Neuberger Museum of Art through December 29, 2002, surveys the extraordinary career of this artist through his prints from 1972 to 2002, and makes clear why Chuck Close is one of today's most recognized living artists.

Chuck Close participated in the organization of the exhibition by reviewing the initial checklist and gallery installation plan and recommending additional works, primarily prints made in the last two years, to round out the show. The exhibition presents works in more than eight print processes, with colors ranging from black and white to 36 gray scale values, or 126 colors in a single print. Papers and scale of works are remarkably diverse. Two portfolios that depict progressive proofs and one final print are also included. (right: Chuck Close, Self-Portrait, 1977, etching and aquatint, 54 x 42 inches, Photo: Maggie L. Kundtz, Courtesy PaceWildenstein)

"The opportunity to present prints spanning a thirty-year period by a master artist is very exciting," says Dede Young, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art who curated the exhibition. "Close's prints have always been remarkable for their complexity and richness; he has always been consistent in his investigation and utilization of abstract means to create recognizable portraits. His exploration of diverse printmaking processes is unsurpassed, and his steady look at the sitter is legendary. With this exhibition, I have had a chance to re-evaluate Close's work and have been surprised to find a new depth of emotional figuration, especially in the recent works. What once seemed an objective, almost cool approach to portraiture, has become a poignant communication that reveals more of Chuck Close than ever before."

Close's portraits gained recognition in the early 1970s. Art critics aligned the artist's work with that of Photo Realists because his portraits are based directly on photographs of people, often himself. Taken with a Polaroid camera, the portraits have been linked conceptually to the instantly available objects of Marcel Duchamp. However, his paintings are developed by transposing increments of marks through the labor-intensive use of a grid system. Laying a grid over a photograph, the artist then pencils a grid with much larger squares on a canvas. Numbering the grids, he copies each grid-square from photograph to canvas, which each square existing as its own small abstraction of painted marks.

Friends and family have always been important to the artist, who, as a young boy, entertained them with magic acts and puppet shows. He chose his friends and family as his models when he started to paint from photographs. A tender portrait of Chuck and Leslie Close's older daughter, Georgia, is one of the first subjects used in 1981 as a result of his experimentation with handmade paper. Working with master printer and papermaker Joe Wilfer, Close created a collage of Georgia and Wilfer created a template that the artist used to repeat the image as an edition, which, in final form, incorporates thirty-six separate gray values. The paper pulp was left to air dry, reproducing the tactile spirit of the original collage. The template is included in this exhibition. (right: Chuck Close, Georgia, 1984, handmade paper, air dried, 56 x 44 inches, Photo: Maggie L. Kundtz, Courtesy PaceWildenstein)

Chuck Close was born in Monroe, Washington, in 1940. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from the University of Washington, Seattle, and received a B.F.A. and M.F.A., both with highest honors from the School of Art and Architecture, Yale University, New Haven, CT. He also studied at Akademia der Bildenen Kunate, Vienna, Austria, from 1965-65, while on a Fulbright Grant.

Close's work has been the subject of more than 100 solo exhibitions including those at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago, the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston; the Museo National d'Art Moderna and the Central Georges Pompidou (Centre Beaubourg), Paris.

In 1988, Close was paralyzed due to a blood clot in his spinal column. He regained partial use of his arms, and was able to return to painting after developing techniques that allowed him to work from a wheelchair. Celebrated as much for his triumph over emotional and physical adversity as he is for his astonishing portraits, Chuck Close is one of art's true superstars. His works hang in the world's most prestigious museums, and he as been called one of the 50 most influential people in the art world. On November 2, 2002 during its annual Gala Benefit, the Neuberger Museum of Art honored Chuck Close with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

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