A Visit With Art-World Hero Chuck Close

Getting some face time, as he gears up for his new fall show

Chock-full of work made for the long-awaited October 19 exhibition (his last New York solo show of paintings was in 2009), the space holds the results of the past few years of intense, methodical effort. "I make about three pieces a year," the artist says. Leaning against the walls are a number of "heads" Close has mostly painted for decades. There are likenesses of the artists Laurie Anderson and Kara Walker, the art collector Aggie Gund, the singer Paul Simon, and the composer Philip Glass; an unfinished painting of Cindy Sherman sits on Close's motorized easel. While pointing to prints and other works bound for the exhibition, Close genially explains his working method with a sports analogy. "What I do is like golf—I move from general to specific in an ideal number of correcting moves," he says as we scan the different-colored, mosaic-like squares making up Glass's head. "At the start, you can't even see the green, but you get to the ninth hole eventually."

Much later, after I've left the studio and am kicking my familiar Brooklyn sidewalks, it occurs to me that Chuck Close had just revealed to me how he taught himself to paint again. "Every stroke," he'd said, summing up his life and generous career, "is a leap of faith."

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6 comments
Chris Rusak
Chris Rusak

"There's a certain kind of virtuosity that amplifies its achievements by a million trillion. Beethoven composed his Ninth Symphony while deaf. James Joyce wrote Finnegans Wake with a magnifying glass. Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States while black." Deafness and poor eyesight are not the same thing as blackness, and to equate the three to together is to place race dangerously close to disability. Also, is being elected president a feat of virtuosity? Conflating political wins with artistic accomplishment is another shaky line to be walking on.

Suzinnne
Suzinnne

Question for Chuck: Do you ever get tired of the formula?

Suzinnne
Suzinnne

Amusing memory of seeing Chuck Close in person. Was at the Whitney Biennial some years back and while riding the huge elevator, there's Chuck Close himself. Some out of town female museum goer recognizes him and gushes "Oh, Mr. Close! Are you going to the exhibit?" Chuck Close deadpans, "No, I'm going to a meeting."

George W. Bush
George W. Bush

Gritty as a marshmellow. What is going on? Publicists have taken over the Voice now too. Real painters--even super-star painters like Chuck Close--do NOT need this. It does nobody any good. . .

R.Duke
R.Duke

I took the mention of Obama as a sort of humorous remark.  I don't think anyone would honestly equate his election with artistic genius, it's just a funny thing to lump in considering how many problems America still has with racial tolerance.  I mean this in earnest:  lighten up.

 
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