CHUCK CLOSE. The Day After. “Art saved my life. Ever since a spinal blood clot left me partially paralyzed in 1988, I've been working from my motorized wheelchair.” Painter-photographer Chuck Close is best known for his large-scale, photo-based portraits, but after becoming paralysed in 1988, he had to devise a new way to carry on creating. “The worst possible thing in the world can happen to you, and you will overcome it. You will be happy again.” The story of Chuck Close belongs to both the rarefied world of art and to the annals of human triumph over adversity.
Chuck Close, an astounding portrait of one of the world's leading contemporary painters, was one of two parting gifts (her second is a film on Louise Bourgeois) from Marion Cajori, a filmmaker who died recently, and before her time. With editing completed by filmmaker Ken Kobland, CHUCK CLOSE limns the life and work of a man who has reinvented portraiture.
Up-CLOSE CHUCK CLOSE. The Day After.
“In life you can be dealt a winning hand of cards and you can find a way to lose, and you can be dealt a losing hand and find a way to win. True in art and true in life: you pretty much make your own destiny. If you are by nature an optimistic person, which I am, that puts you in a better position to be lucky in life.” The story of Chuck Close belongs to both the rarefied world of art and to the annals of human triumph over adversity.
Paintings such as "Lucas," which depicts fellow artist Lucas Samaras, are representative of Close's later, more colorful and painterly style. They go beyond the hyper-reality of his earlier portraits and elaborate on his pictorial investigation of the act of perception, breaking down the visual information into component parts that describe the actual process of seeing, not just the end result.
On December 7, 1988, at the age of 49 and at the height of his career, Close felt a strange pain in his chest. A watershed (and potential Waterloo) the artist respectfully refers to as "The Event," Close's nearly career-ending catastrophe took place after an awards ceremony at Gracie Mansion. According to Christopher Finch's excellent 2010 biography, Chuck Close: Life, Close had spent the day racked by chest pains, yet dutifully showed up to present a prize. After official chitchat, introductions, and a Borscht Belt ramble from Ed Koch, Close delivered his citation—"for Louis Spanier, visual arts coordinator, Community School District 32"—then walked across the street to Doctor's Hospital and went into 20 minutes of uninterrupted convulsions. When these were over—and before doctors acknowledged the extent of his massive spinal cord injuries—a fully conscious Close knew he was paralyzed from the shoulders down. Close called that day "The Event". Many thought his career was over. “First I thought, “Well, I can’t move anything, so I’ll have to make work of a conceptual nature; I can put a lava lamp on a shelf just as well as anybody else.” But then I would have missed the physicality, because I love pushing paint around. Once I got enough head and neck movement, I thought, “Well, I’ll put a little brush in my teeth,” and make little paintings about what it’s like to be in the hospital. Then I got enough gross motor movement that I could sort of move my arm a little bit. I still paint with both hands. I have to press them together to get stability. And I paint with the brushes in a Velcro-attached painting device in which I pull the brushes with my teeth. And I remember my wife and the physical therapist, we were in the occupational therapy room, and put a piece of cardboard in a primitive vise, and drew a primitive grid, and I got some crappy acrylic and a bad brush. And I’m trying to figure out if I can put a daub of that paint into the square. And I sort of fell into it, and I immediately broke down crying. And I said, “You see? I can’t do it. I can’t do it, there’s no hope!” I’m thinking to myself, “Well it’s not _so_ bad.” So after I collected all the sympathy that I could wring out of the situation, I thought, “Well, you know, maybe we _can_ do this after all.”
Chuck Close and Lou Reed - “Lou Reed’s got wrinkles in his wrinkles.” -
After a difficult fight to regain movement (Though confined to a wheelchair, Close can move his shoulders and hands, and employs an adhesive contraption to stabilize his painting hand as he uses a brush — or his fingers to smear paint directly onto the canvas), he not only returned to painting, but with a new style that has kept his place as one of the great American painters of our time.
Emma is a remarkable 113-color Japanese-style woodcut that Close produced in collaboration with Japanese woodcut artist Yasu Shibata. Production of the Emma print took over eighteen months to complete.
Chuck Close (born 1940) began his career in 1968 with a black-and-white self-portrait painted from a photograph. This was the first note of the signature style which permeates his work. Using a process he came to describe as "knitting," Close created large-format Polaroids of models that he then re-created on large canvases. Since then Close has used a variety of media to create stark, hyperrealist portraits. They are closely cropped to eliminate body language and background, inviting the viewer’s attention. Close creates portraits by a process of transposing marks with a grid for reference. He explores a multitude of approaches to depicting his subjects, challenging himself by using materials and techniques that do not easily produce such realistic effects. Close immerses himself in the every aspect of his artistic process, from organization, to composition to execution. Each square is meticulously planned and every mark applied by Close. Close’s work investigates the history of the relationship between the roles of photographer and painter. Not every photograph Chuck Close makes ends up as a painting, but every painting Chuck Close creates starts out with a photograph. Among the media Close has investigated are etching, aquatint, lithography, ink and fingerprints, traditional Japanese woodcut and reduction linocut.