Chuck Close's huge portraits - paintings or collages or prints of the face, usually close-cropped like a driver's license photo - hang in museums and galleries around the world. Close started painting at age 6 and has never stopped. His childhood art studies, growing up in Washington State, led to graduate studies at Yale, where he emulated the brash, colorful work of de Kooning. In 1967 Close found his own style in Big Self-Portrait, a large, black and white photorealistic painting, followed by like portraits of other people who were part of Close's own world: friends, like composer Philip Glass and artist Richard Serra, and family members. The portrait painting has never stopped, and neither has Close's search for new techniques. In the late 1970s, Close found color again and over the decades has put the spectrum through one transformation after another - color dots, large and small, small dots within large, three colors combined to make all colors (the red-blue-yellow used in color printing), and countless colors combined to make countless others. Color isn't just there in the tube for Close; you make it on the canvas. And color isn't something you plan in your head and then try to copy; you find color, through the painting process itself. Form and line, too, are discovered. Close starts with a photo, covers it with a grid, transfers the grid, enlarged to scale, onto the big blank canvas, and then starts in one corner, applying paint to the squares, repeating the process in pass after pass from different angles. He makes no underlying sketch to guide him; just the grid. The ears and eyes and locks of hair appear only as the regions of hue and dark and light incrementally coalesce into shapes. Now 61, Close continues finding new color and new form through portraits of the people he knows and loves.

I spoke with Chuck Close on January 14th, 2002 in his downtown Manhattan art studio, a place with a nondescript exterior that I had passed by many times before. What amazing things can be going on, behind the brick walls and shiny glass facades we see every day! The entry room was long and deep but open, with a high ceiling and frosted windows which allowed bountiful light. Along the left ran a long desktop area and above that, a wall filled with books. From the right wall smiled a big portrait of artist Robert Rauschenberg, composed of 4 large Iris prints pieced together. Straight ahead through a large double doorway was the studio itself: deep, spacious, and bright. At the back wall and beneath a long skylight, an easel held a portrait in progress, tilted at a 45 degree angle. Two tall windows yielded light from the left wall, and a series of daguerreotypes adorned the right wall. Works and supplies lined the floorboards. Nearer the front was a long rectangular metal & formica type table with 6 metal chairs seated around it. With a friendly greeting, Close offered me a seat and then pulled up across from me at the table. He uses a wheelchair ever since a collapsed spinal artery in 1988. The table was covered with papers and telephones and the whole space had the good feel of being very much worked in. Before we began, he took off a long denim work apron from over his trousers and long sleeves.

gallery design by Mike McCaffrey © 2002 Artzar - All Rights Reserved