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Close, Chuck

Chuck Close (Charles Thomas Close), 1940–, American painter, b. Monroe, Wash., grad. Univ. of Washington (B.A., 1962), Yale Univ. (B.F.A., 1963; M.F.A., 1964). After studying in Vienna (1964–65), he moved (1968) to New York City. Since then Close has specialized in huge, coolly expressionless single portraits of his artist friends, himself, or his family, executed from his own photographs in painstaking detail on a grid of small squares. His first works were painted in black and white; he introduced color in the 1970s and 80s. In 1988, Close suffered a collapsed spinal artery, which left him almost completely paralyzed. A brace device on his partially mobile hand, a sophisticated wheelchair, and other aids allowed him to paint again, and in the 1990s his work became freer and more lively. Within the armature of his grids, each tilelike square is filled with swirling, warmly multicolored designs in various forms–X's, O's, concentric rings of ameboid shapes, and others–in closeup resembling tiny abstract paintings, but at a distance coalescing into monumentally frontal portrait heads. From the 1970s to the present, Close has also created a variety of multiple images in such media as mezzotint, aquatint, linoleum cut, woodcut, screen print, paper pulp, and daguerreotype.

See The Portraits Speak: Chuck Close in Conversation with 27 of His Subjects (1998); J. Guare, Chuck Close: Life and Work, 1988–1995 (1996); studies by C. Westerbeck (1989), R. Storr et al. (1998, repr. 2002), and T. Sultan (2003); M. Cajori, dir., Portrait in Progress (documentary film, 1997).

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