Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chuck Close

Tapestry portrait of Chuck Close
Art, like music, is best consumed live. That was my thought yesterday at the Chuck Close exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

The close-up portraits produced by Close and his collaborators are in all the books about 20th Century art, but only when you see them live do you realise why.  Close has worked with 'old-fashioned' techniques or pushed new techniques beyond their boundaries, producing large and usually labour intensive work that is strikingly different from your average portrait.

Detail: tapestry portrait
His work is dominated by grids and seems obsessive: work based on hand drawn computer-type graphics designating exactly which colour should be dotted in exactly which tiny square over exactly which other colour; large works printed using multiple wood-blocks prepared by a Japanese collaborator who is expert in wood block carving; tapestries woven from computer generated images which are startlingly super-realistic.

I left the exhibition with a new understanding of this work and this lifetime of grid exercises

ADDENDUM: I just discovered an interview with Chuck Close that is really worth reading. I had no idea he was incapacitated for much of his life.

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