Chuck Close

1940 · United States

Artist biography

Chuck Close is an American painter, well known for his massive-scale photorealist portraits. Close often paints portraits of himself and others, and creates photo portraits using a very large format camera. He is sometimes referred to as the ‘rock star of contemporary art’ and is one of the best known contemporary portraitists.

Born in 1940 in Washington, United States, Close received his BA from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a MFA from the prestigious Yale University of Art. He then went on to teach at the University of Massachusetts, and later established himself in the SoHo area of New York City. In 1988, he suffered a seizure due to a spinal artery collapse which left him paralysed from the neck down. He now uses a wheelchair, but continues to paint using a brush strapped to his wrist. With the help of an assistant, he creates large portraits in grid squares and paints in a more low-resolution style than in his earlier work. These pieces however, create intricate portrait images when viewed from afar. He now lives and works in Long Beach, New York.

Close has a condition called prosopagnosia or ‘face-blindness’ and as a result he cannot recognise faces. This has played a role in his commitment to creating portraits, even though Close himself did not realise this until he had made a career from painting portraits for over 20 years. Close remained committed to the idea of painting anonymous subjects, and did so successfully when painting close friends and family. However, due to his growing fame and the fame of his friends who were also well-known artists and creatives, such as Cindy Sherman and Phillip Glass, the idea of anonymity has no longer been achievable in his works. Although the way in which he paints and creates artworks has changed since his seizure, his process remains largely the same, and he paints onto canvas with reference to grids on photographs, to better enable him to appreciate the proportionality of his subject matter.

Close's work is in the collections of many renowned museums of contemporary art, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Tate Modern gallery in London and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Close has been represented by the Pace Gallery in New York City since 1977, and by White Cube in London since 1999.

Chuck Close

  • Exhibitions 11

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