The NSU Art Museum focuses on the photos behind Chuck Close's dazzling paintings.
Chuck Close’s Anthurium (1987), a Polaroid diptych mounted on aluminum.
Few modern-day painters manage to excite as much interest in their technical process as Chuck Close. His massive portraits don’t simply pack a visceral punch; they draw viewers in to marvel over each multicolored matrix of dots and dabs, a careful array producing an image that’s much, much more than the sum of its parts.
“Step up close and the head dissolves into thousands of tiles of color,” wrote art critic Deborah Solomon. “An earlobe becomes a mini-Matisse, all purple and orange Fauvist daubs; a forehead melts into a juicy, pink-hued de Kooning. Step back and—presto—the tiny tiles stop jumping around and coalesce into a solemn, staring head again.”
The veil over Close’s technique is at least partially lifted in “Chuck Close Photographs,” an exhibition of the photos that have served as the source material for many of his paintings, on display at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale. Starting with his first large-scale figurative work, 1967’s Big Nude; moving through portraits that constitute a who’s who of the contemporary art world; and arriving at the once (and possibly future) White House residents Bill and Hillary Clinton, the show explores the visual evolution of these figures in Close’s hands.
For the museum’s director and chief curator, Bonnie Clearwater, the exhibit is illuminating about both Close’s painterly approach and the photographic medium itself. “I always find it interesting to look at a lesser-known body of work by an artist as a way of revealing what that artist is doing overall,” she says. “What is he able to do with painting he can’t do with photography? What is he able to do with photography he can’t do with painting?” “Chuck Close Photographs” is on display March 20 through October 2 at the NSU Art Museum, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5500
Photography by: photography courtesy of a private collection