Chuck Close

Luckily I was able to see the latest, Chuck Close exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art before it closes on September 12. He is one of my favorite contemporary artists. I have clippings upon clippings regarding news stories about is work but I learned so much more about his process through this exhibit. Talk about painstaking. I had no idea that some of his prints took at least seven or more stages to achieve or used over 113 colors. Not only do I find him to be an incredibly talented draftsman but he’s a print maker rock star who breaks the boundaries all the previous methods of printmaking.

Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration from Corcoran Gallery of Art on Vimeo.

After his unfortunate aneurysm in 1988, which cause his incomplete quadriplegia, he continued his experimentation with printmaking and perfecting his art as if his disability didn’t (and doesn’t) hold him back. I find this just in itself so inspirational. He has been able to adapt and find ways to accommodate his situation — now being wheelchair bound with limited use of his extremities.

He starts with either a drawing or painting and usually in large scale. He starts at the top and moves down, section by section, using a grid method to transfer the photographic image onto the paper or canvas. Once his artwork is finished, which could take months, he collaborates with the many master printers, who he has accumulated to help him deconstruct his artwork into “pieces” as a puzzle to reassemble and reproduce as a print. He uses many techniques from his early exploration of mezzotint to lithography to Japanese wood prints to his most recent paper pulp portraits. The objective seems to be to get the print to get back to looking like the original painting. The results meld artistic procedures where you cannot tell one from the other.

This interview with Chuck Close by Arne Glimcher from Plum TV is very helpful in explaining his paint process — before the print process. As stated, he uses the grid method to transfer the work onto a canvas but rather than paint exactly what is represented, he uses colors and methods to create abstract forms of each single component that make up the image and the viewer’s eye assembles it together. This is similar to pointillism but the colors and representation of the image are not treated the same way and are not what you see in the photo reference.

Detail of colors used in James by Chuck Close via PlumTV, on Art Is Everywhere

Detail of colors used in James by Chuck Close via PlumTV

Chuck Close Studio Interview with Arne Glimcher_PlumTV, on Art Is Everywhere blog

Chuck Close Studio Interview with Arne Glimcher courtesy PlumTV

Chuck Close in Studio Photo Walker Art by Michael Mritone, on Art Is Everywhere

Chuck Close in Studio courtesy Walker Art. Photo by Michael Mritone

I find his work process extremely precise and mathematical and discovering that he had an undiagnosable learning disability, which was later recognized at dyslexia (via his interview with Phong Bui), makes sense as to why his work is so orderly and controlled. It is also revealing to learn that he views his work as abstract rather than realistic, when his fingerprint portraits are highly realistic; even though, the images are entirely comprised of fingerprints. Their components and the process in their making is nothing but abstract, however. Close explains his perspective with this quote:

See my problem was that I just didn’t like the term realism or photorealism; I was more interested in the tension between reality and artificiality. I was as interested in the distribution of marks on flat surface as I was in what they stacked up to represent. And the emphasis that realism made iconography too important and painting not important enough didn’t really appeal to me. In other words, I was always so much more interested in the process than the destination. That, I think, is where style, innovation, and personal vision is located.

Not only does he use a mathematical grid system for his painting but he uses numbers in his print process to indicate the tonal quality for the right amount of pressure to apply for etching or paper pulp color to use. This was eye-opening to discover at the Corcoran exhibit. They did an excellent job of showing the stages of the print, how a grid is used, the layering and even his incredible anamorphic self-portrait print. This really shows his knowledge of the great masters, who used this technique, including Escher, another great draftsman and printer.

Close_process of print in stages via Corcoran Gallery of Art, on Art is Everywhere

The process of Close’s prints in stages via Corcoran Gallery of Art

Close's anamorphic print via Corcoran Gallery of Art, on Art Is Everywhere

Close’s anamorphic print via Corcoran Gallery of Art

I’ll look forward to seeing even more innovative techniques of Close’s artwork as he continues to create.  In the meantime, click here for previous posts on Chuck Close and I’ll be reading the exhibition book (very last one they had), Chuck Close Prints, Process & Collaboration, cover to cover.

Chuck Close_Process & Collaboration by Terri Sultan, on Art Is Everywhere

Chuck Close_Process & Collaboration by Terri Sultan

The Fall

The Fall, Lee Pace & Catrinca Untaro ©2006 Googly Films

Although the movie, The Fall, is not as visually stunning as Hero (one of my favorites), the heightened dream set imagery adds to this delightful and eerie tale. Lee Pace, from Pushing Daisies, portrays Roy, the stuntman who is recovering in a 1920’s California hospital after a “bad” suicidal fall. He’s depressed over his lost love’s affections for the leading actor during the shooting of his cowboy movie. He meets the five year old Alexandria, played by seven year old Romanian actress Catrinca Untaro, quite by accident as her note misplaces its landing and flies into his room. Upon her retrieval of the note, he proceeds to tell her a mythical tale with the hope of her helping him complete what he failed to do in the first place.

Kids being kids, she doesn’t realize that she’s being used at first but is smarter than we all think and she convinces Roy to eventually find a happy ending to the story at last but by way of very circuitous pathways.

I enjoyed Tarsem, the director’s ability to show the loss of childhood innocence that Alexandria witnesses repeatedly and the strength she finds to endure. Her attitude is pretty infectious with the hospital staff, Roy and even with his made up characters as well as the audience.

There were many touching moments as there were surreal, like her “doll-like” video operation and when the Mystic enters the scene from a tree and his people sing “Deep Forest” type chants to revive his spirit and set the direction for the next course of action. (Deep Forest is some of my early painting music. Tarsem directed their video as well as REM’s “Losing My Religion,” which to me is like a Caravaggio painting in motion.)

There are also clever allusions to the film’s copyright under Googly Films, when Alexandria recites a phrase to help her scare her demons away, “Googly, googly go away!” Finally there are uplifting moments of humor when Alexandria relates all of Roy’s story characters to people she knows, including “The Indian,” who as he tells it should be a Native American Indian “no longer able to look at another squaw” but she pictures him as from India. Like the ending in The Wizard of Oz, we later learn why. I guess dreams sometimes do mimic real life…or is it the other way around?

The Fall, Wallace Dies @2006 Googly Films, LLC

This picture clip from the movie reminds me of an Escher etching. We saw his original work at the Escher Museum in the Hague when we took a family trip in 2006. Mesmerizing with complex and brilliant compositions.