Fred II by Chuck Close

Chuck Close

Red, Yellow and Blue: The Last Paintings

On View
Feb 23 – Apr 13, 2024
New York
 
EXHIBITION DETAILS

Chuck Close
Red, Yellow, and Blue: The Last Paintings
Feb 23 – Apr 13, 2024

GALLERY

510 West 25th Street
New York

PRESS

Press Release

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Above: Chuck Close, Fred II, 2017 © Chuck Close
Pace is pleased to present an exhibition of the last paintings of Chuck Close at its 510 West 25th Street gallery in New York from February 23 to April 13, 2024.

The gallery’s first presentation dedicated to Close’s work since the artist’s death in 2021, this show will feature a selection of paintings, photographs, and works on paper— most of which have never been exhibited before—that reflect Close’s significant contributions to the history of art. Since it began representing Close in 1977, Pace has exhibited each new body of his work, and this upcoming presentation will complete that cycle.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring a previously unpublished 2018 interview between Close and the artist Cindy Sherman—originally commissioned by The Brooklyn Rail—as well as a new critical essay by Carter Ratcliff, which considers Close’s final works in depth. These texts will appear alongside an essay by Barbara Knappmeyer that examines the artist’s renderings of the face in the context of facial recognition technology.

Since the 1970s, Close has been known for his innovative approach to conceptual portraiture, systematically transposing his subjects’ likenesses from photographs into gridded paintings. Over the course of five decades, his work challenged conventional modes of representation across a wide range of media, including various forms of painting, printmaking, drawing, collage, daguerreotypes, Polaroid photography, and tapestry. The artist posed a radical proposition with his approach to painting, going against the grain of art world trends during the late 1960s and 1970s, when Minimalism, abstraction, and seriality were dominant, and portraiture and photorealism were largely overlooked.

Pace’s upcoming exhibition will spotlight Close’s final body of paintings, which includes works that have never been publicly exhibited. These full-color portraits and self-portraits employ a palette of only three colors: red, yellow and blue. Layering transparent glazes of paint, Close created an effect of abstract likeness entirely different from that of his previous work. The complex color relationships that unfold in these paintings are visible at the bleeding edges of each square within the grid, where the ragged ends of each individual color are visible. Meditating on the power of color itself, Close’s final works suggest the constructive aesthetics of Impressionism, where form is built up through a chromatic architecture of brushstrokes. Appearing more abstract than representational to the human eye, the likenesses in these portraits come into greater focus when viewed from a distance or through the lens of a camera, an act of transfiguration that speaks to the artist’s interest in modes of perception and information processing.

Close realized these formal achievements in his last works while grappling with long-term health issues precipitated by a spinal aneurysm that he suffered in 1988 at the age of 48. Having lost the use of his arms and legs as a result of the aneurysm, Close was told by doctors that he would never be able to paint again. Through a grueling process of rehabilitation, he eventually regained his ability to paint by using a brush-holding device strapped to his wrists and forearms. Working through this disability for the rest of his life, he was forced to teach himself how to paint in an entirely new way, reinventing his approach to the medium in the middle of his career. In his final works, Close continued to push against the constraints of his physical disability to reinvent his own painterly language once again.

Even prior to his aneurysm, however, Close struggled with other disabilities. Throughout his childhood and adolescence, he used art as a means of navigating severe dyslexia and prosopagnosia, or face blindness. Having studied at the University of Washington, Yale, and the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna, he began teaching at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst—where he would present his first solo exhibition—in the mid-1960s. Upon relocating to New York, the artist continued to explore new modes of realism, using an airbrush to paint black- and-white, highly detailed photographic portraits of himself, his family, and his friends onto large-scale canvases, a practice he would continue for the rest of his career.

Close began in the late 1970s to make use of a grid system based on a physical relationship to his support. The resulting works read like pixelated mosaics wherein the viewer deciphers a unified image within juxtaposed colors, shapes, lines, and fingerprints. The artist’s first retrospective, titled Close Portraits, was organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1980. That show traveled to the St. Louis Art Museum in Missouri and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago before closing at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In the early 1990s, he began experimenting with portraiture through the production of silk tapestries and, in 2003, he furthered this investigation, creating editions of large-scale Jacquard tapestry portraits. In 1998, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented a full-scale retrospective of Close’s career that included more than 90 paintings, drawings, and photographs, cementing his status as one of the most influential artists of his generation.

 
Chuck Close Portrait

About the Artist

Chuck Close’s (b. 1940, Monroe, Washington; d. 2021, New York) commitment to process and media characterized his approach to portraiture. He began creating portraits based on photographs in the late 1960s, using a grid to map each facial detail, which he would then recreate in exacting detail through painting.

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