A legendary portrait painter and master of photorealism, Chuck Close is one of the most influential artists of his generation, renowned for his meticulous detail and innovative technique, which has deeply impacted both American culture and the international art community.
An artist from an era of technological breakthroughs, Close continues to controversially blur the line between fine art and photography. Rather than relying on an expressive impulse or an academic tradition, he has built his art upon his own rules and rituals. As an artist with a deep academic foundation, he pushed the concept of photographic realism in painting to the foreground and further popularized the use of art as a reflection of the power of individuality.
One of the first artists to use the camera in the late 1970s to make photographs as both the basis for painted portraits and as works themselves, Close created his own iconic tool by putting a grid on the photograph and then transferring a proportional grid to the large-scale canvases.
In the age of the selfie, the art of portraiture, at first glance, seems to play the role of filtering the photographic reality. But for Close, the story goes much deeper: Art became a way to communicate his pain—both physical and emotional—as well as a tool to celebrate his victory against the circumstances that tried to stop him from living his dream. In addition to the partial paralysis that has made him use a wheelchair since 1988, the artist has prosopagnosia
(face blindness), which drove him to portraits in the first place. He wanted to commit images of friends and family to memory, immortalizing the people and faces that mattered most. With his photographic memory for two-dimensional objects, he changes the faces to two-dimensional portraits. In fact, Close believes he has flourished as an artist not in spite of his neurological conditions, but because of them.
In an artistic journey that has lasted more than 50 years, Close has revolutionized the art scene, transforming the canons of academic portrait and experimenting in different forms—from Polaroid photography to oil painting, mosaic-tilework, and tapestry. He has created portraits from tonal grids of fingerprints, pointillist dots, brushstrokes, paper pulp, and countless other media.
Chuck Close has received a National Medal of Arts and was appointed by President Obama to serve on his President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has served on the boards of some of the most prestigious arts organizations. His artwork has been featured in hundreds of exhibitions as well as private and permanent museum collections around the world: Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Britain, London; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; National Portrait Gallery, London; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima; Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen, Germany; and many others.