Chuck Close Prints
Process and Collaboration
January 13–April 18, 2004
Accompanied by a publication
This is the first comprehensive survey of American artist Chuck Close's (b. 1940) groundbreaking innovations in the field of printmaking, featuring approximately one hundred prints, working proofs, and objects. Together they document the creative and often highly experimental ways in which Close has reinterpreted the signature subject of his paintings and photographs—monumentally scaled images of the human head—into the artistic language of various print mediums.
The works on view date from his first print, Keith/Mezzotint, made in 1972 and believed to be the largest mezzotint ever produced, to Emma, a 113-color Japanese-style woodblock print, completed in 2002. Encompassing the full scope of Close's printing activities, the exhibition demonstrates how the artist—in collaboration with his master printers—has consistently challenged the traditional boundaries of such diverse printing techniques as aquatint, etching, lithography, silkscreen, linoleum cut, and Japanese and European woodcut. Visitors also have an opportunity to visualize the artist's creative processes through the display of progressive and state proofs for a number of his prints, as well as actual woodblocks, etching plates, and other print matrices.
Raised in the state of Washington, Close demonstrated a precocious talent as a draftsman from an early age. In 1964, he received his M.F.A. from Yale University, where he served as an assistant to the master printer, Gabor Peterdi. By 1970 he had captured the attention of the art world with a series of nine-foot-high, hyper-realistically painted canvases of himself and his friends. Since then his art has focused on larger-than-life images of the human face. Reflecting the artist's fascination with reality, illusion, and forms of visual perception, these "heads"—as Close calls them—are typically conceived as a series of gridded abstractions that, when assembled in the eye of the viewer, coalesce into a representational whole.
Since 1972 printmaking has been an integral part of Close's artistic output. However, far from serving as a mechanical means to replicate his painted work, his prints—even more labor-intensive and time-consuming than his canvases—have been an important proving ground for his artistic activity as a whole. As Close has asserted, "Virtually everything that has happened in my unique work can be traced back to the prints."